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Practical guide to Latvian Easter traditions

Easter is one of those holidays that a lot of people assocciate with Christianity. For me, however, Easter has always been about pagan traditions that are so very much alive and practised in Latvia. This is going to be a practical guide to coulouring eggs for Easter Latvian way and what to do with them after!

But before that…

A quick word on some other Latvian Easter traditions. In pagan rituals Easter was celebrated on the  arrival of spring, it was a sign of the beginning of new life and a lot of rituals were observed during this holiday. Nowadays most of the holidays in Latvia have taken some Christianity aspects but the pagan part of Easter has always been the strongest part of this celebration for me.

As one of the important traditions that still is alive, is swinging during Easter. Historically it was building a swing and then swinging, but nowadays noone really does the building bit. However swinging as high as possible is said to be good if you want to repel mosquitos and horseflies from biting you in the summer (and trust me – who has been in a Latvian countryside on a summer evening, knows how important that is). The more ancient belief of this action was that swinging would help the sun to climb higher and the spring would come quicker.

Another belief in Easter is to get up before sunrise which will give you alertness, health and happiness throughout the year. 

The major tradition however is colouring eggs and having egg fights. This is not the oldest tradition but definitely the most popular one.

Colouring eggs

You will need to get some white eggs and a large quantity of dry onion skins. This will produce a variety of colurs on eggs, depending on how long they will have been immersed in the onion skin mixture: short immersion will give you a light yellow, whilst the longer you'll keep the eggs immerssed, the more brown they'll get.

Usually there are two approaches to decorating eggs. You can tie leaves or flowers or rice to eggs and then immerse them in the onion skin mixture. This will leave you with a lighter pattern on the egg where the object was attached.

Other approach is to boil the egg in the onion skin mixture and then to sratch the pattern into the egg. Both of these approaches will take some time but when done together with friends or family, is a great way of making your own traditions.

Usually the eggs are coloured the day before Easter, so that on Easter morning first thing you could have is an egg fight. You simply choose an egg and knock it against someone else's egg. The one whose egg stays intact, is said to live the longest. These eggs have also been used to exchange between families and friends in that way mulitplying the goodwill around.

So, this is the way Latvians are celebrating Easter. Do you have any traditions on Easter that are still practised? 



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