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Summer solstice celebrations
Do not miss the most Latvian holiday of all – Jāņi or "Līgo!", the night from June 23 to June 24 (in harmony with the summer solstice), when people participate in joyful festivities just as their ancestors did centuries ago.
#1 Eat, drink and be merry
Līgo and Jāņi is ideally celebrated in nature, making garlands of oak leaves or wild flowers, going to the sauna, drinking beer and devouring copious amounts of caraway cheese – best if homemade. The entire proceedings are serenaded by a sing-along - the enchanting Jāņi folk songs with the "Līgo!" refrain.
#2 Keep traditions alive
Jāņi was originally a festival for pagan farmers that existed long before the arrival of Christianity and the traditions of the festival remain immensely popular to this day.
#3 Don’t let the rain get you down
Latvians often say "līst kā pa Jāņiem" (it’s raining as if it were Jāņi) since the weather on Jāņi night is usually not the most pleasant. Weather during Līgo and Jāņi celebration can surprise!
This, however, is never an obstacle for the celebration. Be it a sunny day, or raining cats and dogs Latvians always celebrate at their rural homesteads, or go to an open-air party to dance, sing and be together in good company.
#4 Roam the fields
Wild flowers picked on the summer solstice are believed to have healing powers. In honour of Jāņi, homes are decorated with birch, oak and rowan branches, ferns, oxeye daisies and bents. Nettles and thistles can be attached to the door-frame to keep evil spirits out. Women weave wildflower wreaths to decorate themselves.
#5 Stock up on food and decorations
Must haves for celebration - beer and cheese! Also you can supply yourself with farlands, oak-leaf or flower crowns and wild flowers and food. Plenty of food is a must as celebrations last all day and night!
#6 Leap over the bonfire
One of the hallmarks of Līgo evening is leaping over the bonfire which is meant to rid people of their burdens. Couples leap holding hands, so that the magical force of the flames binds them together.
#7 Pop into the woods
They say Jāņi night is the only time of the year when one can see the mysterious and mythical fern flower. No one ever has but this is considered an excuse for couples to sneak away for some alone time in the woods.
#8 Patiently await the sunrise
One must not sleep on Jāņi night! Sleeping is only allowed after sunrise. At dawn, one should walk through the morning dew – this brings money. And those who wash their face in the dew are guaranteed beauty.
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