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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