The XXV Latvian nation-wide Song and Dance Celebration taking place in Riga, Latvia from June 29 through July 17 continues to develop as a wide-ranging cultural event, where the nation not only represents its intellectual heritage and artistic potential, but also expresses its mentality and view of the world in all its characteristically emotional energy, linking man, woman, and nature. Taking into account today’s globally versatile culture as a whole, the song and dance celebration tradition in Latvia is a sign of national originality and a symbol of identity.
The overall theme of the National Song and Dance Celebration in 2013 will be “Ligo” and its motto - “Light Sway in Latvia”. Ligo is considered as one of the most remarkable expressions of the Latvian intangible cultural heritage. Ligo is Midsummer Night (June 23). This 3-day celebration of the summer solstice is the biggest and most beloved holiday in Latvia. During these days farms are decorated with garlands of oak and birch branches and meadow flowers. Nearly every Latvian or Latvia’s visitor leaves the city for the open air so that the shortest night of the year can be spent in the merry company of friends. Traditionally, people in the countryside made their own special cheese and beer for the festivities and went from home to home, sharing their goodies and singing traditional songs.
They’d gather around the bonfire to sing special ‘Ligo’ songs that can only be sung on this night. And they dance the whole night long. Although the sun sets briefly, it doesn’t get completely dark and everyone must be awake to greet the rising sun in the morning. A naked romp into the nearest lake or river is a must for men - and the women who cheer them on. Young couples like to go into the forest and search for the legendary fern blossom. Or so they say. And when you greet the morning sun, you have to wash your face in the grass’s morning dew, which on Jani morning is said to have particularly beneficial properties. Ligo is now over, but that means the Song and Dance Festival is upon us.