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Summer is Officially Here! By Our Student Pharmacist, Andris Grinvalds.

Vainags blog post picture 2

Summer has officially started. The turn of the season from spring to summer was on June 21, the summer solstice.

We have two solstices during the year, Summer and Winter. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year and the winter solstice is the shortest. In the southern hemisphere they are in opposite seasons, so they just celebrated their winter solstice this past week. If you were to travel to the north pole, the sun would not set. There is continuous daylight, since it is the time of year where the northern pole is facing the sun.

The summer solstice is celebrated around the world. It is especially observed in Northern European countries like Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and the three Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, where the solstice is an ancient tradition.

I am going to give some deeper insight into how the solstice is celebrated in the small country of Latvia, since I am Latvian and have celebrated the holiday with all its traditions in the Latvian countryside.

The Latvian solstice is a national holiday celebrated on the evening of June 23 through June 24 by the entire country, as well as by Latvians living abroad. The holiday is known in Latvian as Jāņi, translated to John’s Day. It is also called Līgosvētki or Līgo festival, but the word Līgo does not have a translation. Celebrations include elements of plants, fire, food and drink, as well as singing and dancing.

In the Latvian countryside, neighbors travel from house to house together, sharing in food and drinks, while singing and dancing to celebrate the solstice. Each family usually makes their own verses to a song and when the neighbors travel from house to house, they sing their songs back and forth in a kind of singing duel.

Janu Siers blog post picture 1

During the celebration, people drink beer and eat a type of cheese made with caraway called Jāņu siers or John’s cheese. This is thought to promote a good harvest of barley and good health for cows in the upcoming year.

There is always a big bonfire to celebrate the holiday and it burns all night. One of the traditions of the holiday is to jump over the fire. This is said to bring good luck and health for the upcoming year.

Another tradition is that wreaths made of flowers and grasses for females and oak leaves for males are worn on the head. The flowers are said to protect against misfortunes and sickness and keep enemies away. Oak leaves for men symbolize the strength of oak trees and are said to bring the promise of strong horses and bees. These symbols along with the bonfire are symbols of the sun.

In Latvian folklore, it is also thought that the fern blooms into a flower on the night of the celebration of the summer solstice, June 23. The flower brings good fortune and happiness to whoever finds it. But the flower is very rare and is guarded by evil spirits and can only be found by those deserving of it.

These traditions are celebrated every year in Latvia, but also here in the United States. Latvian American communities still get together every summer solstice to celebrate the longest day of the year. Most of the traditions are also celebrated, such as having a big bonfire, singing and dancing, as well as drinking and eating the traditional food.


Jāņi. Accessed June 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20120620182318/http://www.liis.lv/folklora/gadsk/origin/jani.htm

Caption for Pictures:

This is a picture of the traditional Latvian cheese eaten during the summer solstice celebration.

Accessed June 21, 2019. https://receptes.tvnet.lv/recepte/206-janu-siers


This is a picture of a wreath made of flowers and grasses. This is something women would wear during the celebration of the summer solstice.

Accessed June 21, 2019. https://puaro.lv/interesanti/janu-tradicijas-atsvaidzinam-zinasanas-lai-nepaliekam-kauna/


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