Christmas Traditions in Latvia

  • 06 Apr 2023

Santa Claus, also known to Latvian children as ''Ziemassvētku Vecītis'', which directly translates to "Christmas Old Man".     Children believe in this “Santa Claus” and wake up every morning on Christmas Day to a present under their tree that he placed under the tree. Interestingly, Christmas presents are traditionally opened either on Christmas Eve, in the evening or early Christmas, so "Santa Claus" has to hurry up and deliver the presents!

    Usually these gifts are placed under the tree when most of the household is away - usually when they are at church or elsewhere. There are many little traditions associated with opening presents. Sometimes you have to stand by the tree and recite a short poem before being allowed to open your present.     During Christmas, many young children learn to recite these poems, so they are ready to open their presents! They also have the opportunity to demonstrate another skill to earn the right to open their presents - whether it's singing a Christmas carol or other song, playing an instrument or performing a Christmas dance.

    The country of Latvia is also proud of the fact that it claims to be the very first country that used a tree for Christmas decoration, e.g. Christmas tree. In the capital Riga, there is the first documented use of a Christmas tree, which is used during Christmas and New Year celebrations in the town square. They have used the evergreen tree to decorate and celebrate since 1510. Many people believe that Germany was the first country to use Christmas trees as decorations and celebrate Christmas, especially using the evergreen tree, but it was actually first documented in Latvia.

    If you want to congratulate someone, saying "Merry Christmas" in Latvian, say "Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus". The traditional Latvian feast at Christmas is brown or gray peas cooked with bacon/pork sauce, bacon rolls, cabbage with sauce, pies and gingerbread.  In Latvian Happy/Merry Christmas is ''Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus''. It is interesting to know how people wish merry or merry Christmas in other languages.