The Midsummer magic in Latvian style
Midsummer or Summer Solstice is celebrated in quite a few countries, nations and places; however, I don’t know any other place than Latvia where people love so much the Midsummer night which is called „Līgo”. This is practically not translatable; it comes from ancient times and is used after every line of Latvian midsummer folk-songs. The closest interpretation might be “sway” or “swing”, just like plants or trees are swaying in a light wind. There are plenty of folk-songs, and these songs have come to us through very many centuries, they have originated some 1500 years ago and given verbally from generation to generation. No powers, natural disasters or governing rules could make these songs and the Midsummer celebration extinct, even though, many tried to prohibit Latvians to celebrate “Līgo”, especially Germans and Russians, and especially after the WWII during the communist times.
Latvia is such a tiny country, but the spiritual and intellectual side of life is a big deal over there. Latvians are a nation of singers; they were overcoming all troubles and all disasters cheering themselves up with such folk-songs. I will attach a link which shows one adapted “Līgo” song performed by Latvian choirs during the Song Festival which takes place every 4 years.
Magic rituals, superstitions, simply traditions and solstice magic: everything is carried out and present during the night of June 23. It is supposed to be the shortest night, although, we know June 21 or June 22 are the shortest nights.
We have special foods to enjoy: special cheese with caraway seeds, beer, special small pies and similar treats.
I managed to make my Midsummer cheese this year, as well. That is definitely my most favorite cheese of all of them. It is difficult to make it using Canadian products because they are not quite the same as in Latvia. However, the taste is excellent, I tried some slices already.
This night is celebrated outdoors with bonfires, dancing and singing. This year I’m not going to Sidrabene where Canadian Latvians have Midsummer Festival, it is not the same anyway. “Līgo” belongs to Latvia, we can imitate it, we can try, but it still is very different from the original celebration in Latvia.
The nice thing is being able to wear a flower wreath: women wear wreaths from any flowers, grasses or leaves, men usually wear large wreaths made of oak leaves.
Latvians have names’ days and celebrate them even more than birthdays. June 23 is the day when Jānis has his name’s day. Jānis (we say this not with an English “J”, but like in “young”, just with long “a”). Many Latvian men are given the name “Jānis”. It said 58,400 men will celebrate their name’s day this year, meaning, they all have name “Jānis” and wear the big oak leaf wreath. “Jānis” in Latvian mythology was supposed to be the God’s son, who rides around during this night and blesses fields, meadows, forests and homes. He brings fertility, abundance and good luck.
The Midsummer cheese, Midsummer wreath and Midsummer bonfire are all meant to honor the Sun and to celebrate its victory over night. Nights are very short around this time in Latvia, there are only few darker hours between 12 and 3 pm, and afterwards the light returns.
Young and not that young couples are going to look for the blossom of a fern. Ferns according to the Latvian mythology are blossoming only during this night, only in rare places, and not everybody can find or see these blossoms. The folk-song says: all flowers were blossoming; only the fern did not. It was blossoming on the Midsummer night with golden blooms.
Midsummer is the moment of full blooming when the beauty becomes so obvious that it is impossible not to notice it, when love is so close that it becomes touchable. It is a time of fertility in the nature and among humans. It is a time when the human becomes part of nature again, forgets about civilization, its rules, limitations and restrictions. The Midsummer night is wild in its purest form.
Just like thousands of years ago, a clear and loud “Līgo!” goes up to the sky, echoes in lakes, rivers, hills, and forests, fields and meadows respond with an echo, too. This is believed to be the most magic night when everything is possible and everything can come true.