Latvia celebrates Easter as March ends and April begins

By Manal Abdel Fattah

For Latvians, Easter, or as it is called in Latvian, “Lieldienas,” is the spring solstice, which is celebrated in honor of the arrival of spring and the sun.

This day is steeped in traditions aimed at ensuring good health, a plentiful harvest, and prosperity.

Similar to individuals around the world, Latvians partake in Easter celebrations. When March ends and April begins, they begin to ponder their Easter plans for the year. One of the most significant traditions in Latvia is the painting of eggs, which are seen as symbols of the sun, with a strong preference for using natural substances.

The technique favored by Latvians involves boiling eggs with the skins of onions to dye them red. Wrapping small leaves or flowers around the eggs before boiling creates a delicate pattern on them. Adding more onion skins results in a deeper and more vibrant red color. However, food isn’t the only aspect that brings the spirit of Easter to life.

Dyeing eggs stands as the most beloved Easter tradition in Latvia. To create unique patterns, eggs are adorned with onion skins, strands of grass, yarn, blueberry jam, frozen blackberries, flowers, buds, or leaves before being wrapped tightly in cloth or newspaper and tied with yarn. They are then boiled in a pot for 15 minutes. Once boiled and cooled, the eggs are gently polished with a little butter to give them a slight sheen, enhancing the unique designs left by the onion skins; each egg is distinct. These decorated eggs are not just for show; they are used in traditional games like egg tapping and egg rolling.

In addition to egg dyeing, Latvians engage in various physical activities to celebrate Easter. “Egg rolling” is a playful contest to see whose egg can withstand the journey down a sloped board without cracking. Another popular game is “egg battles” where participants attempt to crack their opponent’s egg without damaging their own. The victor is the one with the intact egg.

Another popular tradition is building a large swing and swinging as high as possible. There are several reasons offered, e.g., to ward off evil spirits or to deter mosquitoes.

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