Monday, June 24, 2013

A recipe for a memorable Jāņu night

The recipe for Jāņi  is actually deceptively simple. There are a few key ingredients, but the rest are optional – you can take them or leave them and still have a great midsummer celebration. Every Jāņi  fête I have ever attended has had its own feel, they each stand out in different ways and yet each is completely memorable – and this one was no different. So here you have this year’s recipe!

Ingredients for a memorable Jāņi
Good company

Traditional Latvian food, such as Jāņu siers (the Jāņi cheese), siļķes kažokā, šprotmaizītes, dūmdesa, pīrāgi, rupjmaize, various aukstie salāti, dzeltenmaize and kvass
Good beer (although I have had my fair share of great Jāņi with bad beer as well…)
Šašļiki, or shish kebabs, a Latvian summer staple

Vaiņagi, or crowns, made with oak leaves for the men and with flowers, grasses and leaves for the girls

One bonfire, accompanied by the following:
   Last year’s vaiņagi, symbolically burned to give strength to the fire, which is the source of light and luck through the shortest night of the year
   Jumping over the bonfire (although commonly accepted that a leap over the fire will bring luck, the tradition originated for couples – a pair that could hold hands while jumping supposedly would stay together)
   Singing, preferably a good mix of folk songs, Dziesmu Svētku classics and the necessary Līgo tunes to properly swing in the summer

Toss in some folk dancing, a little tūgadiņ, tāgadiņ, mugurdancis and apaļā polka

And to top it all off, a search for the papardes zieds (the flower of the fern), as it is a festival of fertility after all! Some say that those lucky enough to find one of the elusive flowers will become wealthy, although the wealth may be monetary or in pleasure… The search for the flower of the fern has also been a way for couples to get to know one another – did you find any papardes ziedi  on Līgo vakars?

Our Jāņi was accompanied by a “super moon,” the biggest, brightest full moon of the year. The boys ran never-ending loops in the moonlit darkness with the other kids, jumping on the trampoline, catching fireflies, eating s’mores and enjoying the freedom of no bedtime and endless snacks. We took our leaps over the fire with them, and enjoyed the warm summer night to its very fullest. A giant thank you to our hosts Sarmīte and Kevin, who open their home to southern Latvians to celebrate every year, you’ve created a winning Jāņi recipe!


  1. Looks like your Jani was very nice. We spent ours at Garezers. It was fairly quiet because so many people are already in Latvija for Dziesmu Svetki or are leaving this week.

  2. A lovely celebration - as you noted, Liene, our cultures are very close (we used to have one king at some point in history, afterall). Beautiful Midsummer wreaths.
    Your boys are growing so quickly.

  3. So Latvian Jāņi! Did you find your Papardes zieds???:):):)

  4. This is just lovely! I love the crowns and the bonfire especially. Thank you for sharing at the Culture Swapper!

  5. You've been featured on this month's Culture Swapper!


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