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Christmas in Latvia: A Time of Traditions and Festivities

Exploring the Festive Celebrations and Cultural Heritage of Latvian Christmas

Christmas in Latvia is a magical time of year, full of traditions and festivities that reflect the country’s rich cultural heritage. With a unique blend of pagan and Christian traditions, Latvian Christmas celebrations are steeped in history and meaning. In this article, we explore the different aspects of Christmas in Latvia, including its history, traditions, and modern-day celebrations.


History of Christmas in Latvia

The roots of Christmas in Latvia can be traced back to the country’s pagan past, with traditions and customs that date back centuries. With the country’s Christianization in the 13th century, Christmas celebrations took on a more religious tone. Despite the changes over the years, many traditions have remained steadfast, passed down through generations.


Preparations for Christmas

In Latvia, preparations for Christmas begin weeks in advance, with families and businesses adorning their homes and streets with colorful lights, decorations, and Christmas trees. One of the most significant preparations is the creation of the ‘Jani,’ a festive meal shared with family and friends on Christmas Eve. Another important part of the preparations is the making of traditional Christmas ornaments, such as ‘puzuri’ (straw decorations).


Traditional Christmas Food and Drink

Food plays a significant role in Christmas celebrations in Latvia, with traditional dishes reflecting the country’s cultural heritage. One of the most popular dishes is ‘piragi,’ a pastry filled with bacon and onions, and ‘grey peas,’ a dish made with peas and bacon. Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a glass of ‘kvass,’ a traditional fermented drink made with rye bread.


Christmas Eve Celebrations

In Latvia, Christmas Eve is the most important night of the festive season, with families coming together to celebrate. One of the most significant traditions is the sharing of the ‘Jani’ meal, where family and friends enjoy a variety of traditional Christmas foods. Afterward, families attend midnight Mass to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and return home to exchange gifts and sing traditional Christmas carols.


Modern-day Christmas Celebrations

While many traditions have remained unchanged, modern-day celebrations have evolved to incorporate new customs and practices. For example, many Latvians now celebrate with a ‘Christmas market,’ where people can enjoy various activities, including music, dance, and food stalls. Another popular activity is to participate in the ‘Ziemassvetki’ festival, a winter solstice celebration that takes place in Riga, the capital city.


Christmas Traditions and Superstitions

Like many cultures, Latvians have their own unique traditions and superstitions surrounding Christmas. For example, it’s said that if you don’t clean your house before Christmas Eve, it’s a sign of bad luck for the coming year. It’s also believed that if you hear the sound of dogs barking on Christmas Eve, it’s a sign that someone in the family will die within the next year.



Christmas in Latvia is a celebration of traditions, community, and cultural heritage. From traditional foods and decorations to modern-day festivities and superstitions, Latvian Christmas is a cultural experience that is sure to leave lasting memories.



Is Christmas a public holiday in Latvia?

Yes, Christmas is a public holiday in Latvia, and it is widely celebrated by the people of Latvia.


What are some traditional Christmas foods in Latvia?

Traditional Christmas foods in Latvia include ‘piragi,’ a pastry filled with bacon and onions, and ‘grey peas,’ a dish made with peas and bacon.


What is the ‘Jani’ in Latvian Christmas celebrations?

The ‘Jani’ is a festive meal shared with family and friends on Christmas Eve in Latvia.

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