• Lielezers

Ligo – summer solstice celebration


Latvia is one of the few European countries where still today, just like hundreds of years ago, a celebration of the summer solstice is held. The shortest night of the year – from June 23 to 24, is spent in front of bonfires that burn bright until sunrise, singing Ligo-themed folk songs. Women and girls wear a crown of flowers on their heads, while men wear a crown of oak leaves.

In many places of Latvia, Ligo is celebrated according to ethnic traditions, singing farewell folk songs to the sun, as it sinks behind the horizon, and welcoming it at dawn. A pitched barrel filled with firewood is lit and raised up on a post, and revellers, dressed in traditional folk costumes, sing and dance all night long.

Many Latvian folk ensembles hold Ligo celebrations at Riga’s Ethnographic Open-air Museum and Turaida Museum Reserve. Everyone is welcome to take part in the festivities.

Several traditional schlager and pop music concerts gather thousands of listeners on Ligo night every year, and open-air dances take place in Latvian cities and towns. And while the bonfires reach towards the sky throughout Latvia, guests are greeted with beer and traditional Jani cheese with caraway seeds.

Some people still maintain the old Ligo tradition of running naked through the morning dew, which has seen a modern revival in Pedvale near Sabile and in Kuldiga, where a “Naked Run” takes place across the Old Venta Bridge.

During the recent years, several Latvian cities have also begun to offer interesting Ligo events. Last year, Ligo festivities in the centre of Riga – on the 11th November embankment, gained wide recognition among the city’s residents and tourists. Various pop musicians and bands performed on three stages until the break of dawn.