Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Preparing for Jāņi!

Are you ready for Jāņi? You know, the most important of the Latvian holidays, that celebrates the summer solstice and the longest day & shortest night of the year?

Here are the posts I’ve written on the topic if you need a quick recap – 

Jāņi – the folklore
Jāņi Chatenet – A glance at last year’s celebration
It's tradition to build a bonfire as well as to take a jump over it - check out the oak crown

I’ve already spent the obligatory 2 hours driving to Inman and back, to shop at the two Russian-import stores there that carry Laimas chocolates and Rīgas šprotes, or smoked sprats in oil, a Baltic Sea delicacy. I also picked up some kvass from Ukraine, a fermented beverage made from rye bread. Popular not just in Latvija and the Baltics, but also Russia and most of Eastern Europe, it isn’t exactly my cup of tea. However, I’m glad to share this novelty with my fellow revelers this weekend at the two (not just one, but two!) Jāņi celebrations we will be attending. Want to celebrate Jāņi in your corner of the US? Just visit this map to find the līgotāji closest to you, and then check out Jāņi Amerikā to see pictures of previous years and to get the full scoop on this year’s festivities.

I also have all the ingredients on hand to tie the traditional cheese, sans dry curd cottage cheese. I will once more be substituting farmer’s cheese, and using my great grandmother’s recipe that has withstood the test of time. Remember, the cheese needs to be refrigerated for at least 24 hours before serving, so find that cheesecloth and get tying!

In blatant disregard of child labor laws protecting them from hours of stirring the Jāņu siers

As we’ve been traveling again, I’ve run short on time to make pīrāgi, another Jāņi  favorite, but luckily I have some dzeltenmaize on hand to make up for it. Round foods are preferred on Jāņi, because of the sun symbolism inherent in this holiday. Therefore, for the Jāņu siers I will be using a round mold and the traditional Latvian celebration bread dzeltenmaize will be circular, instead of the usual kliņģeris pretzel shape often made on birthdays.

Taking a break from all the preparations to watch the rain - ice cream cone essential

It wouldn’t be Jāņi without vaiņagi, the wreaths made from flowers (for women) and oak leaves (for the men) worn on the heads throughout the day. Historically only men named Jānis wore the crown of oak leaves, but since my husband’s middle name is Jānis (and if dad has one the boys each need one), I will be making three on Saturday morning. Any of my Greenville friends have a meadow with daisies blooming, or a wooded lot with some white oaks they would be willing to let me snip a few branches from?

And so you have it, my to-do list for the preparations this weekend:
X  Pick up Laimas šokolādes, Rīgas šprotes, kvass and beer
    Tie the cheese!
X  Bake the dzeltenmaize
    Make wreaths on Saturday morning
    Find our songbooks, Līgo music and book of Jāņi customs
X  Find last year’s wreaths to symbolically burn in the Jāņi bonfire this year (yes, I actually packed them and they have traveled all the way from France only to land in a bonfire!)

I wish everyone  a wonderful Jāņi, and may you find that elusive flower of the fern!

Imports from Europe on the left, Euro Market middle and right

* For those interested in the two specialty stores in Inman that carry Eastern European foodstuffs:
Imports From Europe, 9430 Asheville Hwy (Open Monday – Saturday from 10am to 7pm, although call to verify before driving 2 hours! (864) 599-0996)
Euro Market, 6400-C Hwy 9, Inman SC 29349 (Open all week, call for hours. (864) 814-2605)
There are a few more in the area that I have not had the chance to visit -
Moskov European Food Store, 11064 Asheville Hwy, (864) 472-9183
Nadias International Food Store, 68 S. Main St. (864) 472-9183
My friend Sarmīte reports that she's heard estimates upward of 10,000 Russian and Ukranians living in the Inman area, hence the cluster of shops. I wonder why this area in particular is so popular?

**Update 3/16/2014
There is a new grocery in Spartanburg that carries much of the same foods as the Inman stores, and more: European Market, 8149 Warren H. Abernathy Hwy. (864) 595-5033


  1. Jūs gan esat sagatavojušies Jāņu svinēšanai! Malači! Es ar visām pārmaiņām gandrīz esmu aizmirsusi, ka tepat jau Līgo vakars!:)
    Kas ir dzeltenmaize???
    Priecīgu un lustīgu līgošanu!:)

  2. Dzeltenmaize - kā manā gimenē sauc kliņgeri kas nav kliņgera formā, bet kukulīšos vai aplīšos! Jums ari labu līgošanu!


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