Latvian Easter Traditions

Boiled in onion skins
Boiled in onion skins
Easter daffodils
Easter daffodils
Traditional swinging
Traditional swinging
Easter pork ribs with vegetables
Easter pork ribs with vegetables
Easter cakes
Easter cakes

First and foremost it is of concern to any Christian that Easter symbolizes the fact that three days after Jesus had been nailed to the cross He arose once more on Easter morning. Easter is ushered in by a week of contemplation which begins with Palm Sunday, then Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and finally Easter Sunday. In the Latvian tradition there is also Easter Monday and it is so hard in this modern world to accept the fact that this week before Easter should be a quiet week.

Latvians have a treasury of folk songs called ”Dainas” and one can find many different folk songs about Easter. It’s not surprising that in days gone by there is no mention of coloring eggs because most Latvians color eggs by boiling them in onion skins and tying different materials around the eggs before boiling which will make patterns on them. However there are folk songs which mention eggs of gold, silver and white. If Latvians stick to known traditions what they do is they take a piece of cloth and say in one cloth they put some birch tree leaves then tie this to the egg and it will leave a pattern in the dark brown color which they get from the onion skins and you could use a fir branch which will give some green, some flower petals or even tie up the egg with colorful wool string. There is a belief that in ancient times magicians would color Easter eggs and then put them under a horse’s or other animal’s trough to do harm to the animals or put a spell on them. It was a well known fact that people believed this in the old days and were very afraid of there kind of magic eggs. It was also thought that there was something mystic about the water in which the eggs were boiled and it was thought that this water could do things like keep hawks away from baby chicks which had been born in the spring. Another thing that concerned country folks was that if they saw that the eggshell peeled well and easy then there would be a good linen harvest and if the eggs peeled badly the linen would not grow well.

Some other beliefs were:
If someone stole someone else’s Easter eggs they would have nothing but be just as plain as an egg.
If someone ate an Easter egg without salt they would tell lies all summer long.
At Easter you had to exchange your Easter eggs with someone else’s Easter eggs or your hens wouldn’t lay anymore eggs and chicks wouldn’t hatch.
If a young girl gave a boy 2 eggs it meant she didn’t like him, if three eggs she thought he was not desirable, four eggs meant she didn’t like him but since he was rich she would belong to him and five eggs meant I have wanted you for a long time and now I want to be with you for always.
Something which was looked upon as being honorable at Easter was finding a place to hang a swing and hanging the swing. Usually the tree chosen was an oak or willow and it was usually somewhere upon a hill between say two oaks. It was traditional to hang large swings upon which two or more people could swing and sing traditional Latvian folk songs. This tradition of swinging came with the tradition that on Easter morning as the sun rose on the horizon you had to swing your body first one way three times and then towards the other side three times and so before you began swinging you had to walk around the swing three times first singing songs and then young boys would throw eggs over the branch the swing was attached to and only then could you begin to swing. Young boys who would swing young girls were given Easter eggs and sometimes even hand-knitted gloves or socks. It was also common to keep swinging one week after Easter and then the swing had to be burned so that witches couldn’t swing on it. A tried and true tradition in any Latvian household even these days is fighting or banging with the Easter eggs. Each person takes an Easter egg in their hand and thinks of a wish. Then they hit the tops of the eggs against each other. The person whose egg doesn’t crack will get his or her wish first. There were also egg rolling contests.
Another ancient belief was that at Easter you had to shoo away birds from your garden because birds symbolized bad luck and illness and with shooing the birds away you also got rid of all the bad luck and illness. In other places in the country it was traditional for young boys to walk about all of their neighbor’s houses looking for Easter eggs but the main idea was to get a look at the neighbor’s daughters.

Some other traditions at Easter:
On Easter morning you had to get up very early, put on a completely new shirt and spank those who were still asleep so that it would be sure that all of the rest of the year everything that you took up would go well.
It was believed the water in all of the rivers which flowed in the opposite direction in which the sun went throughout the day was holy. Therefore on Easter morning in such a river you had to wash your mouth so no one could say anything bad to you. You could take the water in a container and it would stay good all the rest of the year and you could use it like holy water.
At Easter you had to swing a lot so that you wouldn’t be a sleepy head the rest of the year.
In the country on barn doors you had to take chalk and draw crosses so that evil spirits couldn’t enter.

Your Easter Table
The first thing you must do at Easter is eat eggs as eggs symbolize life and health and if you eat a lot of them you will also stay healthy. Other foods which you put on your table should have the round form of the sun. Therefore salads are placed in round bowls and little cakes are made round and so on. Foods should be in all sorts of different colors and that’s why at the Easter table you will see a lot of green, red, orange and yellow. Among all the sweet threats like special Easter cookies and cakes were also oven baked potatoes, roasts especially pork roast and ribs and different types of salads and vegetables because at Easter it is traditional to fill up tables with all sorts of good things to eat.

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Comments 17 comments

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

"In other places in the country it was traditional for young boys to walk about all of their neighbor’s houses looking for Easter eggs but the main idea was to get a look at the neighbor’s daughters."

Oh how I loved this one;it's really tickled me and I'll be grinning to myself all night now ;and everyone will think that I've lost the plot.

I've voted this one across the board.

A brilliant article all round my dear friend .

I wish you a wonderful Easter weekend.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia Author

Thanks for reading and enjoying Eddy. Have a wonderful Easter!

Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 4 years ago from USA

I loved learning about the Latvian Easter customs and traditions! Banging the Easter eggs together was also a custom with my Russian grandfather. He and my father would have a contest to see whose egg broke first at Easter time. I love the ideas for coloring eggs by tying a cloth around them with different leaves and flower petals. Not that's something I'd like to try!

Thanks for an interesting and informative hub! Voted up and shared!

AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

I am of Russian heritage and I remember boiling onion skins for Easter Eggs every year at my grandmother's house and making both pas-ha and kulich!

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia Author

Thank you so much for reading and commenting Stephanie. I do believe some of these traditions like the egg coloring and egg banging still go on today.

My mom made wonderful pas-ha but I haven't tried to. I do prefer boiling eggs in onion skins Audrey but then even if I didn't white eggs especially at Easter are so expensive here and the rest of the time we only have brown eggs.

Hope you both have a wonderful and Happy Easter.

KatrineDalMonte 4 years ago

So beautiful, we may all celebrate it slightly differently however it all boils down to the same meaning behind it. Lovely hub and so interesting. Hope you had a great Easter :-)

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia Author

Thank you so much Katrine. Yes we had a quiet and snowy Easter here actually but basically Easter is a holiday symbolizing joy and of course that's why it is the first spring holiday. Hope yours was great too.

thelyricwriter profile image

thelyricwriter 4 years ago from West Virginia

This was a cute meaningful article Gypsy. Very well written I may add. I watched the Passion of the Christ the other day and it really puts this event into perspective. What he had to go through was awful. Being able to visually see this gave me more insight on this event. Powerful movie. Glad you wrote this my dear friend. Wonderful work.

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia Author

Thank you so much my friend thelyricwriter. Always glad to hear from you. I've wanted to see that movie so will take a look where I can get it online.

EclecticFusion profile image

EclecticFusion 4 years ago from Tennessee

Interesting and up! There's a lot here that I didn't know. On Easter, I didn't eat any eggs, but I hope I'll still stay healthy!

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia Author

Thank you for stopping by to comment and for the vote Eclectic Fusion. Actually we didn't boil eggs this year but grated them in salad instead.I'm sure you'll be OK even if you didn't have eggs.

katyzzz profile image

katyzzz 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Fascinating, and the name Gypsy Rose Lee is equally as fascinating, this was an interesting hub with information I have not seen elsewhere, it is really lovely to learn of different cultural traditions

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia Author

Thank you so much for reading and commenting katyzzz. Latvians do have some interesting traditions and some holidays others don't.

Dawnrichard profile image

Dawnrichard 4 years ago

Lovely Gypsy. Nice hub and voted up. Awesomely written about Latvian Traditions. Keep it up.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia Author

Thank you so much for your comment and vote Dawn. Glad you liked the traditions.

poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 20 months ago

It is always interesting to find out about Easter traditions. I am sorry I missed giving out the Easter spankings to the deserving!

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 20 months ago from Riga, Latvia Author

Yes, Easter and other traditions are always interesting poetryman6969 Glad you found this forgot to put it out there to share this Easter.

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