Latvia is proud of its rich folklore heritage which is vivid up to nowadays. Although Latvia is a Christian society, pagan traditions and celebrations are still alive, which were called into being by our ancestors many centuries ago. One of the most popular celebrations is the Summer Solstice, celebrated on the 23rd and 24th June, called Līgo and Jāņi. This celebration is just as popular as, for example, New Year ’s Eve in other parts of the world.
Christmas holds an old Latvian tradition – pulling the log around the house, which calls into being a ritual imitating the pace of the Sun.
In February there is a celebration Meteņi, and in spring – Easter, which also contains pagan traditions such as dying eggs, fighting with them and swinging.
The guests of Latvia are welcome to enjoy the old traditions. Come to the Ethnographic Open Air Museum or elsewhere, experience the traditions and learn the crafts. Before Jāņi, attend the song and tradition studies so you can enjoy the celebration in full and experience the mystery of the shortest night of the year – Summer Solstice. At the Ethnographic Open Air Museum the demonstrations of antique crafts often take place and everybody can obtain a little taste of the old vocations.
A unique value of Latvia's folklore are the folk songs called Dainas. Nothing like them can be found anywhere in the world. Dainas consist of four lines and it is not possible to transfer them to another language. They can be lyric and witty, philosophical and ironic, like aphorisms bringing the ancient wisdom through the thousands of years.
At the end of the 19th century a folklorist Krišjānis Barons did an invaluable work to collect the folk songs, to systematize them and arrange the songs written on little pieces of paper into a special closet. Today the Dainas closet, with more than two million folksongs, is the Latvian national heritage – the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO has included it into the list of human oral and intangible culture heritage.
Since 1873 the Latvian National Song and Dance Festival has taken place. The amateur groups from all around Latvia come together every four years in Riga, in order to join their voices in a powerful chorus and dance folk dances. The Song Festival anthem "Sun, Thunder, Daugava" was written by the Latvian composer Mārtiņš Brauns. Foreigners have admitted – only here at the song festival can one fully see the wonderful and powerful soul of Latvia.
For several decades there has been a tradition to celebrate the Sea or Fisherman festivals in the middle of summer, where one can enjoy delicious seafood, give honour to Neptune, drink, dance and have fun.
Meanwhile in Riga an unusual parade "Go Blonde" has became a tradition – more than thousand beautiful Latvia's blondes dressed in pink go out into the streets holding their lap dogs in order to raise money for charity.
The first marathon organized by Riga City Council took place more than 20 years ago – in 1991. There were 18 180 participants from 59 countries on the starting line of the Nordea Riga Marathon in 2012. Most of the runners choose the 5 km distance (10 973); 10 km distance – 3425 participants; half marathon – 2690, and 1092 participants started the full marathon.
The "Naked Run" is also to be considered one of the new traditions, when half a hundred completely naked runners run across the old Venta bridge on Līgo night.
A new tradition has been set – running over the mud, overcoming artificial and natural obstacles. "The Run of the Strong" stands out from other similar activities; it is the only one of this kind in Eastern Europe. The distance is 6.5 km long and contains more than 30 artificially made and natural obstacles.