And you, where are you going to лиговать?

And you, where are you going to лиговать?
28 June 2024

Лиговать is a verb you could only encounter when celebrating Ligo in Latvia. Ligo (Лиго) is the midsummer feast celebrated in Latvia every year at the end of June. You can read more about it here, here and here.

Celebrating Ligo at the Dzegužkalns Park

The Dzegužkalns Park, located on the Western bank of the Daugava, is one of the oldest locations where Ligo is celebrated in Riga. The park consists of a hill going up to 28 meters, and features many trees, some of which are over 100 years old. Originally, the park was used as a cemetery. Indeed, in the 19th Century, the Riga City Council converted it into a burying place for poor people who could not afford to buy graveyards. The cemetery closed in 1907 and became a popular park among Rigans. An amphitheater was later added to host events. 

For Ligo, many Rigans as well as tourists (both national and international) would head towards the Dzegužkalns Park. Traditional Latvian music and dances are performed throughout the evening in the amphitheater, while a traditional campfire is set further up the hill. It is also a good opportunity to taste traditional Latvian food and beverage. 

The tradition of flower crowns (венки)

It is a Latvian tradition for people to craft crowns during Ligo. While girls usually use flowers, oak leafs are more common for boys. According to tradition, locals would usually pick wildflowers for the making of crowns. Nowadays, some people might choose to buy the braided wreaths instead. But, nevertheless, the flower crowns do not lose their actual meaning. Throughout generations, the herbs used are supposed to prevent disease and ensure protection. Each flower holds a unique meaning and can have a various therapeutic role. 

The campfire

Latvian traditional singers would call people to come and watch the lighting of the campfire. They sing paganic texts, like prayers, wishing for all the bad luck from the previous luck to go away. From the top of the hill, they would light up a cart and roll it down to a pile of wood. Prior to that, some people would throw on the pile of wood their crown flowers from past year’s Ligo to chase away bad luck.

Once the fire is lit, people dance around. Traditionally, brave ones jump over the campfire, but in Dzegužkalns Park the fire is so huge that flames are too high to be jumped over. Anyway you should always be careful when jumping over the campfires, as Latvian authorities every year count casualties among reckless – often drunk – daredevils. 

Food and Beverage

It is no surprise that Ligo is also celebrated with great traditional food and drinks. As some of you may already know, kvass is one of these specialities. Known as a fermented cereal-based drink, it is no wonder that it appeals to any tourist. This beverage can be enjoyed along with shashliks (skewered cubes of meat) and other grilled meats. For those vegetarian there is also the option of gray peas and sauerkraut (kapusta) in the menu. Even with one bite, you will be indeed charmed by the culinary scene of Riga during Ligo. 


This article was brought to you by Elena and Theo, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz Riga

These images were taken by the authors

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