A very happy holiday to one and all!
The Latvian Ziemassvētki is an ancient celebration, a pre-Christian solstice celebration as in many European cultures. The Latvian name of the holiday never changed to reflect the new religion, however – “Ziemassvētki” means “Winter Holiday” or “Winter Celebration”.
Perhaps this is because Christianity came relatively late to the Baltics – the “Brothers of the Sword” arrived in the late twelfth century to Christianize the Baltic people in what was called the “Livonian Crusade”. While most people converted to the new religion, there is still a strong pagan element in Latvian culture today.
Allegedly, the first documented use of an evergreen tree as a Christmas tree was in Rīga in 1510. Some legends connect this event with Martin Luther, but there is no evidence that Luther was ever in Latvia.
I know I have been a bit quiet on this blog recently, but that is about to change! I have now returned to Canada, and with the conclusion of Christmas festivities (most Latvians celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve), I have time to blog again.
I will have several new and exciting projects coming to this blog – and my website as a whole – that will be unveiled in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!