Latvia’s holidays share some similarities with both Lithuania’s holidays
and Estonia’s holidays
. Secular commemorations of important historic events mix with Christian festivals and pagan celebrations throughout the Latvian holiday calendar. Some of these holidays provide travelers with a unique look into Latvian culture that they wouldn’t be able to experience at any other time of the year. Easter, Midsummer, and Christmastime are some of the most exciting times to travel to Latvia because of the large-scale festivities put on for these holidays.
New Year’s Day—January 1
Latvia rings in the New Year with the rest of the world, and locals and travelers alike begin partying on December 31st. Riga, the capital, sees an influx of tourists over the Christmas and New Year holidays, and a good percentage of those visitors are from Russia. Russia has a long tradition of treating New Year’s Eve with more importance than even Christmas, so parties in Riga during this time of year will be of a particularly enthusiastic nature.
Good Friday is an official public holiday in Latvia, which means that certain businesses and institutions will be closed on this day.
Easter in Latvia is called Lieldienas, though the festival of Lieldienas actually corresponds to pagan Latvia’s celebration of the Vernal Equinox near the end of March. Today, both Christian and pagan holidays have merged to create the Latvian modern-day Easter celebrations. As in other Eastern European nations, coloring eggs is a part of Easter tradition, and Latvians today can either use time-honored methods to color eggs with natural dyes or modern synthetic dyes to produce eggs in the Latvian tradition.
Labor Day and the Day of election of the Constitutional Assembly of the Republic of Latvia—May 1
This public holiday marks two important days: Labor Day and the Day of election of the Constitutional Assembly of the Republic of Latvia. On this day in 1920 the constitution of Latvia was ratified.
Restoration of Independence Day—May 4
Restoration of Independence Day marks the day in 1990 when Latvia reclaimed its independence from the Soviet Union after having been annexed to the USSR in 1940. Latvia first declared its independence in 1918.
Mother’s Day—Second Sunday in May
This day is an occasion for gifting flowers and cards to mothers and grandmothers in Latvia.
Pentacost falls on the fiftieth day after Easter and is observed in Latvia.
Midsummer Eve and Midsummer—June 23 and 24
Midsummer Eve and Midsummer hold strong importance in the Latvian holiday calendar. It celebrates the shortest night and longest day of the year and corresponds to St. John’s Day. A variety of superstitions accompany this day, along with rituals such as leaping over bonfires and decorating houses with wreaths. The traditional food of the midsummer festival is cheese flavored with caraway seeds.
Latvian Freedom Fighters’ Day—November 11
This day remembers soldiers who fought for Latvian Freedom and came into existence when German and Russian troops were prevented from entering Riga by the Latvian army in 1919.
Day of Proclamation of the Republic of Latvia—November 18
On this day in 1918, national representatives met to declare the official independence of Latvia after WWI.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day—December 24 and 25
Latvians celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with family, a special meal, decorated trees, and gift-giving. Old Town Riga
hosts a Christmas market that sells mulled wine, snacks, cold-weather wear, handmade crafts, and Christmas decorations. In addition to the Riga Christmas market
, large Christmas trees decorate historic squares and lights create a festive atmosphere. Before Christmas was celebrated, in pagan times, the end of December was the time for recognizing the Winter Solstice and for remembering ancestors.