Latvians abroad celebrate Midsummer

Although Līgo vakars and Jāņu diena, or June 23 and 24, together make up the biggest holiday in the homeland, Latvians abroad this year in many cases will be celebrating the Midsummer festival during the weekend of June 21-22.

For those in Latvia, the Midsummer celebration is a state holiday, but for those living abroad there’s no such luck. Across Europe and North America, in Australia and even in a few spots in Asia, organized celebrations are planned June 21 or later, but in a few cases already have occurred.

At a minimum, the celebrations will feature singing, eating of the the caraway seed-infused Jāņu siers (Midsummer cheese) and drinking of beer. Bonfires will be the focal point of rural celebrations. Several communities have invited performers from Latvia to their Jāņi celebrations. Organizers at Priedaine in New Jersey, for example, snagged popular singer Ance Krauze, while the celebration at Ireland’s Rathbeggan Lakes will include the band Kreicbergas ziķeri.

Embassy staff in Beijing, China, and in Tokyo, Japan, closed out the work week by inviting the local Latvian community and other diplomats to celebrations in those cities on June 20.

Latvians in Australia are celebrating in Perth, Brisbane and other locations.

Germany ranks No. 1 when it comes to Jāņi celebrations this year compared to the number of Latvians who live there. At least half a dozen celebrations are on the calendar, according to reports gathered by Latvians Online and posted in a special calendar section.

Celebrations also are planned, or have already occurred, in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Ukraine. At least two celebrations also are set for Latvians living in Moscow, Russia.

Perhaps the most exotic Jāņi celebration is in the country of Georgia, where the local Latvian community this year is heading on a June 22 excursion into the Caucusus mountains.

Two celebrations are planned in Ireland, where tens of thousands of Latvians have moved in recent years in search of work. One celebration is June 21 near Dublin, the other June 23 near Limerick. Several celebrations also are scheduled in the United Kingdom.

In Canada, Latvians are celebrating June 21 at Tērvete, a camp in Québec, and at Ontario’s Camp Sidrabene. Līgo vakars, however, will not be ignored, as the Latvian Canadian Culture Centre hosts a celebration June 23.

And across the United States, Jāņi celebrations are planned from coast to coast. In the eastern U.S., Latvians will gather at Piesaule in New Hampshire, the Latvian Lutheran Camp in New York’s Catskill Mountains, Priedaine in New Jersey and at a private property not far from Washington, D.C.

In the Midwest, celebrations are scheduled near Ohio’s Cleveland, at the Latvian Center Gaŗezers in Michigan, and in Wisconsin, where Latvians will gather and no doubt travel between Dievsēta near Warrens and the Tupesis property, about a 30-minute drive to the south. Latvians in Indianapolis will join other ethnic groups in a June 28 Midsummer celebration at the Latvian Community Center.

In the western U.S., celebrations are scheduled in Colorado, Washington and California, where the holiday will be marked in San Francisco and near Los Angeles.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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