Happy Winter Solstice or when we welcome back the light! From now on, the days will grow longer, even though at first it doesn’t feel like it. It sounds like a paradox but when we celebrate Summer Solstice, the hours of light shorten until Winter Solstice when they lengthen again.
For those of you who follow my blog and are on my newsletter list, you know that one of the main settings for my vampire romance is Latvia, a Baltic Country in northeastern Europe. Before Christianity arrived in the area, Latvians followed the cycles of the earth and had many holidays to mark natural changes.
One of them was Ziemas Saulgrieži, Winter Solstice, or now more commonly called, Ziemassvētki, Winter Festival. “Saulgrieži” roughly translates to “sun return”, which I think is neat because that is what occurs—a return of longer hours of light. Saule is the word for sun, and is considered a feminine energy.
Since daylight only lasts around 6 hours during the winter and typically it snows for days, Latvians created fun activities to gather with others and pass the time.
Currently, these celebrations are mixed together with Christmas, but the following are pre-Christian festivities.
This tradition is one of my favorites and one of the most interesting. A large log is pulled through town or around the outside of the house to collect negative memories, energies, or spirits from the past year. People sing or make noise to scare off the bad and bring in the good. At the end, the log is burned in a big bonfire as a type of purification to let the negative go.
Feasting and Offerings
Of course no celebration is complete without food, and during the meal nine different foods are prepared and eaten. They include a pork roast, stuffed bread rolls or pīrāgi, potatoes, gingerbread cookies, peas, and other goodies.
The meal is shared with spirits of loved ones who have passed on by gathering food on a plate and placing it at an empty chair at the table or taking the plate to the barn or sauna. The ritual of placing food on the plate at an empty chair during the meal appears in the first novel of my series.
Mumming or “Kekatas/Budēļi”
People would also dress up as animals such as goats, bears, cranes, horses, or other creatures, and go from house to house singing. The families in the homes would give the disguised visitors food and beer. This was another way of chasing away the bad and brought blessings and merriment to the home.
Though I wrote in past tense, many Latvians still include these activities in their Christmas/Winter Solstice fun.
What and how do you celebrate? Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice? Share in the comments below!
Whatever your festivities, have a lovely holiday with your family and loved ones.
Also, if you love paranormal romance, my upcoming sizzling, series, the House of the Black Swan, features vampires. To be the first to hear my news or receive exclusive stuff, sign up for my newsletter, Scarlett West’s Pulse! Also, always feel free to stop by on Facebook and Twitter and say hi to me.
Thanks for reading,