Traditional Christmas Greeting: "Prieci 'gus Ziemsve 'tkus un Laimi 'gu Jauno Gadul"
Location: Eastern Europe Baltic
Tree Type: Traditional

Decorations:

  • The straw ornaments are made out of material found in the fields. There are also several cross shapes made from the tops of wheat. The straw ornaments are made into geometric shapes from simple to more complex designs.
  • The garlands are made from cranberry, apples and pinecones.
  • The tree was originally decorated with lit candles though today electrified candles are used.

Traditions: In Latvia the Christmas celebration is know as Ziemassvetki or winter festival. The festival is a direct descendent of ancient winter solstice celebrations. A central element to Ziemassvetki is the log burning which involves groups of people dragging a log around the house during the day, burning the log all night singing ritual songs and drinking beer.

The earliest mention of a decorated Christmas tree in Latvia is found is found in legal documents from the city of Riga. In 1510 it is stated that members of the local merchant guild carried a Firtree decorated with artificial roses to the marketplace. They danced around it and then set it on fire. The reasoning behind this has been lost to history, though it may have been associated with the ancient tradition of the Yule Log.

On Christmas Eve the family gathers around the tree and sings traditional Christmas carols. Traditional foods served during this time include pork, pig's snout, pig's feet, beans, whole grains, peas and a variety of breads and rolls. Each food has a meaning: e.g. eat a pea you'll cry one day less; eat a bean one day you will mature; eat a pig's snout you will write a great deal; eat a dumpling there will be many sunny days. Later, Father Christmas may visit. He is a stern looking man dressed in gray and has a long white beard. He brings gifts for the good children and for the bad ones he gives them stick-switches.