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Love strikes at heart of Baltic states

  • 2001-02-15
  • Howard Jarvis
RIGA - Of course itÕs not the first time that St. ValentineÕs Day has come to the Baltic states. Although it was ignored before independence, it has since become a day not just for love but friendship, too.

For better or for worse, sentimental cards, heart-shaped candies, and cuddly toys carrying cushions with ÒI love youÓ written on them are all as much a part of the commercial circus here as anywhere else.

Citizens of all three countries treat St. ValentineÕs Day as a regular holiday, a ÒFriendsÕ DayÓ as it is officially called in Estonia, when people socialize and celebrate together rather than as romantic couples.

This is one day, at least, when Estonians can try to forget about their chronic divorce rate, one of the highest in the world.

Many in the Baltic states, especially young people, complain of too many solemn days of remembrance and commemoration, and for them St. ValentineÕs Day brings a welcome antidote.

Even local folk mythology is catching up, with pagan tales and magic being linked to Feb. 14. In more isolated parts of Lithuania, it is said that you can see your loved one in a dream if you fasten five dried bay leaves onto your pillow. Make sure to put one of the leaves in the center of the pillow where you rest your head. The other leaves should go at each of the four corners. After this, you will surely have a pleasant dream.

This powerful love magic is especially potent on the eve of St. ValentineÕs Day. YouÕll be with your beloved all night long, from the evening of February 13 to the morning of the 14th.

The Baltic TimesÕ writers Aleksei Gynter (Estonia), Elina Cerpa (Latvia) and Alkas Paltarokas (Lithuania) went out into the streets of the Baltic capitals to conduct another of the paper's famous street polls, asking what plans passers-by had for the day. In Lithuania, the question was extended to the nationÕs Independence Day (relating to the declaration of independence in 1918), which comes just two days later.