Eliant Gomez Alanis
29 December, 2015
A common Latvia tradition is the Janis day celebration that takes part on June’s 23rd night to June 24th; it is the shortest night and the longest day of the year due to the summer solstice. Originally it used to be a pagan celebration by farmers only, before the Christianity traditions. A short explanation for its name is because of its association with the John the Baptist feast day in the Christian calendar. Now, according to the Latvian calendar, every Latvian name has its own celebration, so on June 23rd has designated the female name Liga and the next day has Janis, the male name, so this name is linked to the name John and that’s the reason why the celebration is held that day.
Latvians celebrate it in different ways, like going to the sauna, making garlands of oak leaves and flowers, drinking traditional beer with cheese and singing folk songs and dancing all around.
Summer is the best time for open air celebrations, because of the large gatherings and recreation of ancient traditions, even though sometimes the weather conditions are not always too convenient, as Latvians do not care if it rains or if it’s cloudy, they will still celebrate.
What is interesting, is to find out how superstitious Latvians are, since they believe that attaching a nettle to the door frame in those days, will keep the evil spirits away; also, the herbs plucked during summer solstice have healing powers, and the oak branches are often used to decorate the house indoor.
In the evening, they do a bonfire, where everybody is supposed to burn all their unnecessary belongings in order to get rid of them. Among other traditions, in that night they say you can see a mysterious blossoming fern, and it is recommendable to go to sleep after seeing the sunrise and walk through the morning dew because it brings money but for the women it ensures their beauty for a longer period.