‘Lielā diena’ heralds arrival of spring


Latvians color Easter eggs using onion skins and other natural materials. (Photo by Andris Straumanis)

The ancient Latvians called the spring equinox Lielā diena, when the day gets longer or lielāka than the night. It is a cause for celebration, of course! As Easter or Lielā diena approaches and the preparations begin, you may be on the hunt for some Easter-related information.

We took the pain out of Googling and have come up with some sites you can quickly scan if you’re planning Latvian traditions in your festivities.

Without going into the Latvian Easter rites in depth, the world-view of the ancient Letts has been distilled down to a few traditions that are still holding strong. Here is a list of Web sites (all in Latvian) to get straight into them:

Egg coloring

Visitors to the agricultural products site www.zemnieks.info can download a a step-by-step guide to egg coloring and Easter basket weaving techniques. Click on the image of the hairy bunny in the right hand column and you will get a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation. It’s great for schools and other folklore activity leaders.

More tips on coloring eggs using natural materials is available on the holiday-themed site Svētki.lv.

For information on other egg-related traditions, visit the tourism site Vietas.lv for the article “Lieldienu olas un olu krāsošana folklorā.”

Pasha, kuličs and other recipes

Ever wondered how Grandma makes Easter delicacies like pasha (also spelled paska) and kuličs? Sixty readers of the Web site Receptes.lv have posted these and other recipes meant for Easter. Don’t even try to sneak them in any other season—you’ll be the laughing stock of the town!


Taking a turn on a swing, or šūpošanās, is part of Latvian Lielā diena tradition. Suffice to say that you had better swing high if you want the crops to do well while at the same time avoiding mosquito bites. The folk culture site Māras loks offers information on this and other traditions.


It wouldn’t be a Latvian holiday without singing. The official Web site of the Latvian folk religion dievturība, www.dievturi.org, offers information on songs related to Lielā diena.

Lesser-known traditions

Among other traditions Latvians enjoy at Easter are olu ripināšana (egg rolling), olu kaujas (egg fights) and prognosticating the future based on weather conditions. You’ll learn about some of these at the aforementioned Svētki.lv, as well as in a section devoted to Easter in the Latvian folklore pages maintained by the Latvian Education Informatization System, and on the Web site of the nationalist political organization Latviešu nacionālistu klubs.

Still want to do your own searching? Don’t forget to check out Google Image Search if you’re still stumped on the nuances of egg rolling and spring swinging. A picture is worth a thousand words!


Daina Gross is editor of Latvians Online. An Australian-Latvian she is also a migration researcher at the University of Latvia, PhD from the University of Sussex, formerly a member of the board of the World Federation of Free Latvians, author and translator/ editor/ proofreader from Latvian into English of an eclectic mix of publications of different genres.

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