On the evening of 23rd of June, when all of project M.A.R.E. volunteers and our friends had gathered at our home, the celebration of the most Latvian holiday of all – Jāņi or “Līgo!”, was initiated.  Jāņi is the night between June 23 and June 24 (in harmony with the summer solstice), when people participate in joyous festivities just as their ancestors did centuries ago. 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. 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. This, however, is never an obstacle for the merrymaking. Be it a sunny day or raining, Latvians always celebrate at their rural homesteads, or go to an open-air party to dance, sing and be together in good company. Wild flowers picked on the summer solstice are believed to have healing powers. One of the hallmarks of Jāņi is leaping over the bonfire which is meant to rid people of their burdens. 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.

The event was organized by me and a friend of mine, Ilmārs, with whom I was studying together in the university.  The celebration was launched by singing of some folk songs in our performance, followed by an explanation of the origin and traditions of this festive.

On the festive table were different dishes such as two (improvised  =D) versions of the traditional sort of cheese with caraway seeds, two different  types of rye bread, rye bread croutons with garlic, hemp-seed spread, oven-baked potatoes with onions, dip with garlic and of course some beer :) because it’s a traditional drink for this night.

During the party we were hearing traditional music, learning basic steps in folk dance, singing, dancing, playing traditional games and having a lot of fun despite of the fatigue of many participants after a long week of work.

Since it was also Antonietta’s birthday, we combined these two events into one.  To celebrate this a delicious cake was served and champagne glasses were chopped :)

And MANY THANKS TO ILMĀRS!!! The party would never have been as successful without him :)))