Easter time comes with a list of traditions that are or were observed in Latvia. They are a mix of Latvian pagan and Christian traditions. I’ll try to focus mostly on the ethnic Latvian traditions. Yet, you’ll still notice me mentioning the influence of Christianity because it’s strong. German Catholics brought Christianity to Latvia in the 12th and 13th centuries. Thus, it’s even in Latvian folklore.
How is Palm Sunday called in Latvia?
The first important day on the Easter time calendar is what we call Palm Sunday in English. Yet, in Latvian, we call it Pūpolsvētdiena which means Willow Catkin Sunday or Pussy-Willow Sunday. That is because there are no palms in Latvia, but there are willows which bloom around Easter time.
How is Maundy Thursday called in Latvia?
Ancient Latvian calendar relied on equinox/solstice times. Easter time is around the time of Spring Equinox. So, in Latvia, ancient pagan traditions mingle with Christian traditions. Hence there is the reference to the color of green which is also the color of spring.
Latvians also try being well organized and tidy on Green Thursday. The belief is that if you manage to do so, it will be easy for you to maintain good order and tidiness all year round.
Also, eat green peas on Green Thursday. Then, if you’ll hear a cuckoo in summer, you’ll get rich soon after. Funny how the green color is associated with money in Latvia and in the USA where we’d think of green dollars.
But you want to be not only rich but good looking too, don’t you? Well, Latvians believed this could help if you do it on the morning of Green Thursday:
Good Friday and Latvian beliefs related to it.
- The person born on Good Friday definitely has the ability to see ghosts.
- Anyone can see witches on Good Friday if they climb up to the attic of their house and look through a sieve.
- You can recognize witches among churchgoers if you look at them through a hole of a coffin board.
- You shouldn’t wander around on Good Friday. That’s what only envious and evil people who practice black magic do.
- Don’t visit others on Good Friday if you don’t want witches to show up at their home.
- On Good Friday, you can prepare to protect your house from lightning. Take a loaf of bread and put it on the bottom of a chest of drawers. When thunder strikes, start eating this bread. That will make lightning go by without hitting your home.
- To get all you want and be protected, on Good Friday you need to catch two mating frogs and throw them on an ant hill. Then walk away. You’ll hear singing and violins playing and later dogs howling, but don’t look back. Return to the ant hill only on the following day. You should be able to find a small hook in it. That hook will enable you to attract everything you want. You should also be able to also find a small crutch in it. That crutch will enable you to keep away everything you want to keep away from you.
How is Holy Saturday called in Latvian?
In Latvia, we don’t call it Holy Saturday or Black Saturday. We call it Klusā Sestdiena which means Quiet Saturday. Many Latvians would avoid hosting loud events and celebrations because they may feel disrespectful to others. That’s because it is the time when people remember the sufferings of Jesus Christ.
The Two Easter Days
The following are some of the ancient Latvian Easter / Spring equinox traditions
If you want to have lots of energy and happiness all year round, you should wake up early on the Easter morning. Bathing in a stream running towards the sun will also help you to ensure a clear mind and physical beauty. Try to be the first one to jump in a spring on the Easter morning. Thus you will have more energy than others and will be the healthiest.
About the Eggs
An egg symbolizes the sun. It also symbolizes fertility and the beginning of a new life.
Egg coloring tradition is popular with Latvians too like it is with other nations. Many Latvians still use natural colorants such as onion skins, woolen threads, dry birch leaves, alder tree buds, and chamomile tea to color eggs.
Easter egg fights are still popular in Latvia.
In an egg fight, the intention is to break the shell of the opponent’s egg. The belief is that the one who has the strongest egg will live the longest life.
Swinging on an Easter swing is one of the most popular Easter traditions in Latvia.
Latvians believe that you should swing as much as you can on Easter. Swinging will protect you from mosquitoes as well as snake bites during summer.
- Palm Sunday is Willow Catkin Sunday in Latvia. The Latvian for it is Pūpolsvētdiena. Latvians spank each other with pussy-willow twigs.
- Maundy Thursday is Green Thursday in Latvia. Latvians call it Zaļā Ceturtdiena. You should not pick any green and growing plant on this day. Try to be extra organized.
- Good Friday is called Great Friday in Latvia, and Holy Saturday is called Quiet Saturday. In Latvian that is Lielā Piektdiena and Klusā Sestdiena. Be quiet on these days.
- Easter is plural in Latvian. It is called Lieldienas. The first day is called Pirmās Lieldienas, and the second day is called Otrās Lieldienas. Egg fights and swinging are two popular Easter traditions.
Click the link to read about Latvian traditions for Fall Equinox.