RIGA - Latvians head to Independence Day, fought for and won in 1918, to celebrate its 92nd birthday on Nov. 18 with many activities planned throughout the day. Independence Day honors events of 1918, when a self-elected National Council proclaimed independence from the Russian empire on Nov.18, to state that a new country Latvia, for the first time, appeared on world maps. This led to battles of freedom where many Latvians fought to keep their national dream alive.
Today, celebrated as a national holiday, Independence Day events gather thousands of people around the country to celebrate the history. Both residents and tourists can participate in a wide range of activities – from a military parade to church music, from the president’s speech to fireworks.
One of the most exciting events during the celebration is the festival of light “Staro Riga” (Shine Riga). This year will be the third consecutive year for the festival, and it is deservedly ranked amongst the top events to attend on Nov. 18, even outshining the usual headliner – fireworks. As it is stated on the official homepage of the festival, the main goal is to “make Riga glow during the darkest time of the year,” and everyone who has seen anything from the festival goes home full of amazing emotions. Riga literally shines, making the whole town turn into a unique exhibition of light where lead roles are given to squares, bridges, houses, monuments... almost everything that can be turned into art. With Staro Riga, the town is transformed from an urban metropolis into a modern piece of art.
The importance of this festival is reflected not only in the memory of the people, but also in the technological and informative environment. Social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Draugiem.lv indicate the significance for something that shines in the dark, providing an almost magical feeling towards it. The festival serves somehow as an indicator for fun and entertainment, but mostly it helps unify people... it helps unify Latvians. To make the festival even more available, everyone who wants to know what objects are lighted, and where, can call the inquiry service 1188 to get all the information that’s needed. Staro Riga is on its way to becoming a major event internationally – and organizers don’t hide this ambition. However, there’s a hope this festival won’t turn into a profit-oriented one, which may cause the loss of inspiration it generates at the moment. Don’t miss your chance to feel the energy that Staro Riga offers. The festival takes place from Nov. 18 - 21.
There’s a word of precaution, though. No matter what kind of events people can actually see, there is a big part of residents who find the celebration of Independence Day hypocritical. The portal’s nra.lv survey, about the commitment to the national celebration, shows that many people decide to do absolutely nothing to honor Independence Day.
There’s another threat – many young people see an additional holiday on Independence Day, which has no special meaning. On the other hand, Independence Day can be called a family day when parents can really get away from their work and pay full attention to their children. And, despite the fact that this celebration gets a more global approach to activities held on Nov. 18, it still shapes the respect for people who dared to form the independent country of Latvia, after being captured under the rule of Germans and Russians in World War I.
Independence basically is the biggest achievement the Latvian nation has ever gained, so this day is celebrated all around the country, but with the major events hosted in the capital Riga. The Nov. 18 celebration starts with the flower laying ceremony at the Freedom Monument and culminates with fireworks on the banks of the Daugava River – 11. Novembra Krastmala. During the day visitors can also enjoy various concerts, the military parade and listen to a speech by the president of Latvia – Valdis Zatlers.