Next year, Latvia’s capital city Riga will be a European Capital of Culture. With around 200 cultural projects and events, including operas, exhibitions and festivals, the program ranges from a major cultural history exhibition on the 500 years of the printed book and a contemporary arts festival to one of the biggest celebrations of the summer solstice in Europe.
The Capital of Culture Year will be opened with broad-ranging festivities from Jan. 17-19. The central event will be a symbolic act by book lovers – a ‘human chain’ of books on Jan. 18, when books will be transferred, hand-to-hand, from the old National Library of Latvia building to the new Gaismas pils (Castle of Light) on the other bank of the Daugava river. Registration and a communication campaign for this event begins this month.
The opening festivities will also include another key European Capital of Culture event – a multimedia performance of the opera Rienzi by Richard Wagner, who, for a time, worked as a musical director in Riga.
Participation and creative expression are the key themes of Riga 2014. They also apply to contemporary arts festival ‘Survival Kit,’ which will provide visitors with opportunities to become involved and participate in a variety of discussions and workshops. Riga’s creative quarters will come to the fore with their diverse programs, each reflecting its own unique local charm.
But most of you want to know what to do now in Riga, not wait until next year. Here’s a listing of where to really experience the Midsummer festivities in and around Riga.
For more information visit www.riga2014.org.
Warm-up events for Midsummer holiday in Riga
June 18 at 20:00
At Riga Technical University’s Great Hall
Jani warm up and dancing with the ‘3 x 3’ Dance Club and Ilga Reizniece, Riga Dance Club, and Valdis Putnins. Making wreaths with the RTU post-folklore group ‘Vecpilsetas dziedataji.’
Entry fee: Ls 2.00 for school children and students, Ls 3.00 for adults, Ls 1.00 for children.
June 20 at 15:00
Ligo warm-up at the Riga Art Nouveau Museum with the folk tradition group ‘Budeli’
Admission with a museum entry ticket.
June 20 from 17:00 to 19:00
Ligo warm up in the courtyard of the ‘Ilguciems’ culture center. Dance groups, folklore groups, and experts in traditional Jani rituals will be taking part. There’ll be singing, dancing, and garland weaving.
June 20 from 17:30 to 19:40
Literature and Music Museum
Address: Pils Laukums 2, Old Tawn
Participating: Oskars Patjanko, Lauma Berza, Leanni Barbo, and Kristine Admine. Entry fee: Ls 1.50, Ls 1.00 for pensioners, students and school children.
Summer solstice at the Open-Air Ethnographic Museum
The Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum is a place where ancient Latvian traditions are held in high regard and where visitors can learn about the way of life of the ancient Latvians. The museum is open year-round, and visiting around the Līgo! Midsummer holiday gives you the chance to learn how to properly celebrate Līgo!
The summer solstice marks a turning point in nature and in the agricultural calendar - the longest day and shortest night - and the conclusion of sowing and plowing for the farmer. The Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum popularizes this traditional Latvian holiday, but it also is adapted to modern thinking and lifestyle, to let one understand the meaning of traditions and their value back then, and today.
Bus no. 1 until the stop “Brīvibas muzejs”
Ligo! market in Riga Old Town’s Dome Square
Celebrate the Latvian pagan holiday Līgo! Featuring beers, caraway cheese, dances and Līgo! songs by the bonfire until dawn. On June 21, a special Midsummer Fair will be held on Dome Square to properly prepare for the year’s greatest celebration. Impressive flower bunches and garlands, delicious smoked meat and fish, home made cheese from all Latvia’s regions - all that along with cheerful singing, strolling and shopping all day long at the Fair!
Līgo! celebration on right bank of the Daugava River
The celebration of the Latvian pagan tradition Ligo! dates back centuries, with its main idea to hail nature and fertility. The festival’s key features are bonfires, beer, caraway cheese, flower crowns, and Līgo! songs. Nowadays, you don’t have to go to the countryside to greet the sunrise the following day - Jani Day. A large-scale celebration will take place in Old Riga, by the Daugava River, on June 23.
As usual, traditional beer, caraway cheese and bacon-filled pies will be on offer. Folklore groups and ensembles will describe Latvian traditions; pop musicians will perform a wide range of songs - from rock music to schlager. According to tradition, Līgo! night is usually rainy, but don’t worry! All those celebrating riverside are welcome to take shelter in cozy tents.