Monday, December 1, 2014

A Baltic Christmas Day 1 - Advent


Countdowns to Christmas are a holiday tradition around the world. Growing up my siblings and I always had an advent calendar for awaiting Christmas Eve: some years with an image, poem or fragment of a story, other years appealing to the sweet tooth with chocolates. Last year my boys were given Playmobil calendars, with a toy a day concluding in a holiday tableau. And this time of year pinterest is awash with DIY advent calendar ideas: colorful boxes with small toys, 25 bags hung with clothespins, a Christmas tree with activity cards, and decorative envelopes containing good deeds to complete in the days preceding the holidays.


Considered a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of Christmas, many Western Christian Churches observe advent. However, folk traditions vary from country to country. In England it was a custom for poor women to carry around the "Advent images", two dolls dressed to represent Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to receive a coin from everyone to whom they were exhibited. In the Normandy region of France farmers employed children to run through the fields and orchards armed with torches, lighting on fire bundles of straw - believed to flush out rodents responsible for damage to the crops. And during the last days of Advent in Italy the Calabrian pifferari bagpipe players enter into Rome to play before the shrines of Mary.

Celebrating the fourth advent in Rīga, Latvia

Many of these folk traditions have died out, but the tradition of keeping an Advent wreath in churches and homes survives. Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25, and a candle in the wreath is lit weekly beginning on that first Sunday. Latvians enjoy bringing the outdoors in, fashioning a wreath of spruce, fir or in some years holly to adorn the holiday table and bring light and fragrance to our annual countdown.



This year please join me in counting down the days to the holidays not with a calendar or wreath but with 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas! In hopes of sharing with you some of my favorite things about the season, I have asked some fellow Baltic bloggers to help showcase Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian holiday food, crafts and traditions. I hope you will find inspiration, a craft project or simply some holiday cheer in the posts featured this month; we have recipes for traditional Estonian holiday food, discussions of Lithuanian Christmas traditions, some lovely Latvian winter crafts, snippets of Baltic holiday music and so much more! See you tomorrow for Day 2 of The 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas featuring Elga Ozols and “The Not So Jolly Fat Man of a Latvian Christmas”!

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8 comments:

  1. I am so very much looking forward to reading all the posts! Today's reminded me of childhood, when we had an Advent wreath with candles at home, and every Sunday lit another candle. I also remembered my Latvian church's Advent wreath - every week a different congregation member (usually pre-teen or teenager) got to light the candles.

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    1. And that's why advent wreaths, although not an exclusively Latvian tradition, are still very important to many of us who have grown up outside of Latvia - we remember these moments from our childhood, and are passing them on to our children.

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  2. On November 30th, EVERY year, we go through the "Which safe place did I store the advent candle wreath in, so that I will be sure to find it today...?" And I am NEVER that organized!
    Joyous waiting for Christmas, solstice, whichever winter holiday you celebrate!

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    1. We fashioned an advent wreath out of a plate charger, four tealight holders and a wreath for several years. This year it was a nice surprise to find the advent candle holder that I had bought last year after the holidays and forgotten about!

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  3. Great idea, Liene. I look forward to reading your blogs (when I have internet)

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    1. Thanks Katie! Hope you have internet often!

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  4. Look forward to reading all the posts Liene...a great idea!

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