Christmas Traditions in Latvia

Priecigus Ziemassvetkus!

In Latvia the countdown to Christmas begins with the Advent season. Advent wreaths can be seen everywhere as Latvians busily shop for Christmas presents for family and friends.

Christmas is celebrated all over Latvia. The majority of Latvians attend a church service on Christmas Eve rather than on Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve families come together to celebrate the birth of Jesus. They celebrate by preparing a special Christmas meal that includes such dishes as potatoes with sauerkraut and pork, and lentils with bacon. Gingerbread is baked in almost every home. The special Latvian Christmas Day meal is cooked brown peas with bacon, pork, sauce, small pies, cabbage and sausage.

Gifts are exchanged following the meal, but there is one catch! In order to get a present you have to recite a short poem while standing next to the Christmas tree!

Many of the Christian traditions in Latvia are intertwined with earlier pagan traditions. Christmas Eve is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, but in many families it is also a celebration of the Winter Solstice, the time after December 24th when the days become longer and the nights become shorter again.

There are still many pagan traditions alive today. One such tradition involves a wooden block that is rolled around the house to drive away any evil spirits from the home. In the countryside people often go masquerading from one home to the next while singing and playing different games.

Latvians believe that Father Christmas brings presents on each of the 12 days of Christmas starting on Christmas Eve. Usually the presents are put under the family Christmas tree. 

It was in Latvia that the first Christmas tree was decorated. For more infromation see First Christmas Tree >