Christmas time

I love Christmas time in Latvia. Here, because of the winter and the whole darkness issue it has so much more meaning to me than it ever had in Australia. For me, Christmas is a whole bustling month of light and brightness, anticipation and tradition, as we await the shortest day of the year and welcome the sun back to our lives.
It starts some time in early December, when yellow sparkly Christmas lights start appearing in shop windows, brightening the walk home in afternoons when night falls before you finish work. Christmas markets begin to be set up in the old town, clusters of little wooden booths selling trinkets and other knick knacks. When you walk past you can smell mulled wine. Often in December there is the first proper snow fall and the fir trees in the park match the other Christmas trees set up around the city.
The kids wake up excited every morning, eager to see what the advent calendar has in store for them. Every supermarket sells an arry of ready-to-bake gingerbread dough, and we bake gingerbread (Latvian piparkūkas) often, the house filling with their spicy aroma. This year we even attempted a gingerbread house, which was moderately successful.

The evenings are full of kindergarten and school Christmas concerts and parties, we also attend our friend's band's traditional Christmas concert where they sing winter solstice songs, well known to everyone.
We spend Christmas eve at Kūgures. In the morning we go to the forest and pick a tree - always much harder than it sounds. This year it was no mean feat on account of the snow. We spent some time wading through snow drifts, for the boys up to their waists, and then abandoned the search to Jem. He came back with a fine specimen! The amount of snow at Kūgures was unbelievable, and after my family had "made it in", we basically barricaded ourselves in and spent the next two days celebrating indoors, which was wonderful. Everyone was together, sitting around, examining/playing with their presents, eating good food, playing cards, talking.


Another tradition we have during the winter solstice is our Latvian halloween, or ķekatas, which I described some time ago in this post. We went again this year, mainly for the boys, who love going in to stranger's houses unexpectedly and surprising the inhabitants with our songs and masked tomfoolery. They also loved the bit where you ask for food and can take as many lollies as they like!
All of the month of preparing for and celebrating the winter solstice is rounded off with New Years Eve - which for me is always a slight let down. I mean, I enjoy the parties, but after such a long and intense festive season, I've run out of puff. This year we celebrated at our friends' place at Jurmala and counted down to 2011 with sparklers at the (very snowy and frozen) beach. Revellers up and down the coast let off fire works and we watched a host of glittery explosions by the Baltic sea.

Hope your own festive season was also filled with excitement, light and love! Here's to an adventurous and wondrous 2011!

One Response so far.

  1. Marite says:

    After having just celebrated another warm Christmas, I have to say that I agree with you- the winter solstice has a lot more meaning to me when it's actually winter. In fact, I was even asking Joel one day if native Australians had holidays that fit the seasons, instead of ones that were brought from the northern hemisphere... he didn't know.
    Looks like you all had a lovely season, though! I don't envy your snow, but, would have liked to have been with you guys anyway- especially on NYE- I think I would have liked a NYE on the beach!

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