Each and every year between the 23rd and 24th June people across Latvia celebrate the Midsummer festival. Known locally as 'Līgo' or 'Jāņi' the festival focusses on the summer solstice and the high peak of the solar calendar in the year.
Often referred to as a fertility festival and steeped in ancient folklore, focus on young unmarried couples 'hooking up' and finding the mythical 'fern flower' in the meadows may be more of a thing of the past. However, one thing is certain, even in the 21st Century many Latvians take this festival seriously, with folk music, local beer and cheese, song, dance, fire and ritual all coming into play! When the costumes and head garlands come out at some events, its time to get your midsummer game on and know what to do and how to do it!
What to do in Riga during midsummer?
Simply put you need to get out of Riga! Sure the local city puts on some events and shows but it is not the same as being in the nature and bringing in the the midsummer with a few bites from the mosquitos, heavy eyes and some great memories! This year 2021, there may be some events going on around the city but as restrictions in some cases still apply we are not even making suggestions! So if you are not afraid of nature and do not fancy creeping around a Riga that looks like a zombie apocalypse film set, find a way to be outdoors.
So what happens during Midsummer in Latvia?
For some at least the pagan past is important but for the most part, escaping the city and having a grill with friends and family is probably more of a reality than leaping over fires and practicing ancient rituals . Although not really a time to be seen to get drunk, many people fall into the trap of drinking too much beer, falling asleep in a field and becoming mosquito breakfast.
This is not a good ending for anyone on midsummer because as tradition dictates you should remain awake for the whole duration to see the short setting of the midsummer sun (if one can call it slipping away for a dusky hour a sunset) and remaining until good old Mr Sun, pops his head up again to bring in the new day and in some sense, the new year. For it is the turning point, when each day will become shorter and the inevitable return to the darkness of winter approaches. Now you see why the Latvians celebrate the Sun so much! Long summer nights and cold dark winter days make the season so important in the Baltic region.
So grab your roll of cheese, bring your finest ale, do not forget your head garlands, brush up on your folk music, get prepared for supermarkets full of Shlager music and head out of the dusty city of Riga to some close friends, or unknown friends back yard. Just please, do not end up under the tree with the mosquitos.
Happy Midsummer folks!