Countdown to Christmas 2016 - Week 10 - Latvia

Ziemassvetki mumming in Latvia; photo courtesy Vienkocu Parks




The Republic of Latvia is one of the three Baltic states in Northern Europe.  Despite the main religion being Christianity, many traditions survive from the ancient pagan celebrations of the Ziemas saulgrieži (winter solstice), the longest night of the year. The people of the Baltics were the last pagans of Europe, until the German crusaders arrived in the 13th century.  Over the centuries the old pagan traditions, characteristic to many Northern European countries, have blended and mixed with the Christian ones and are celebrated during Ziemassvētki, literally meaning winter festival, but also used to denote Christmas.  Since the winter solstice and Christmas happen very close together, the rebirth of the Sun Maiden is celebrated on December 25, along with the birth of the Christ Child. Ziemassvētki is a mix of ethnic, religious and modern traditions all about light coming back into life.




Art Nouveau Aqua Patina Dangle Earrings Handmade by Linda of TreasuresofJewels 



For Ziemassvētki, homes are decorated with evergreens, most commonly fir branches and fir trees. Traditional decorations are made from straw, colored yarn, bird feathers, as well as dried flowers or dried fruit, with candles used as the light source.  A more natural and subtle beauty is created instead of the modern-day brightly colored and sparkly decorations.  Even though the Germans lay claim to the original Christmas tree, the first documented use of an evergreen tree for Christmas and New Year celebrations dates back to 1510 in the medieval town square of Riga, the capital of Latvia.  A tree was placed and decorated in front of the House of Blackheads, a guild for unmarried German merchants in Riga.  A tree has been erected in that legendary spot every year since then.





Vintage Inspired Christmas Cupcake Toppers - Set of 12 - Handmade by Nat of Adore By Nat



For Latvians, Ziemassvētki is the time when all family comes together. December 24th is usually very peaceful and is when families go to Christmas Eve church services.  While at church, Ziemassvētku vecītis ("Christmas old man" who looks suprisingly just like Santa Claus) brings small gifts and places them under the tree.  The gifts might be opened after church or on Christmas Day.  It is a tradition in many families that the person who receives a gift must recite a short poem or sing a song.  Before Christmas, children spend time learning the poem(s) they will have to recite to get their gifts.  Sometimes a song on a musical instrument can be played or a dance performed.





Golden Tigers Eye Gemstone Statement Necklace Handmade by Sharon of BlondePeachJewelry 



In Latvia the family, close relatives and friends join together for the Christmas feast which might be eaten after church on December 24 or on December 25.  A Ziemassvētki meal traditionally consists of 12 foods, usually including:  a pork roast (in times past, a whole roasted pig head), grūdenis (pig's head boiled with barley), pelēkie zirņi ar speķīti (boiled grey peas with bacon washed down with kefir), shtoveti kaaposti (stewed saurkraut), small pies, cabbage & sausage, pirāgi (bacon rolls), piparkūkas (gingerbread) and skrīveru gotina (caramel candy).   German gluhwine, a hot wine drink, is often part of the meal.  It is very important to eat boiled grey peas during the meal because legend says if you eat them you won’t have to cry the next year.





Custom Pet Portrait Drawings Handmade by Cathy of CraftingMemories1



The best-known Latvian Ziemassvētki tradition is a custom that goes by several names depending on where you are in Latvia:  budēļi, ķekatas or kaļadas.  It translates to “mumming” or "masking."  Mummers wear an assortment of masks and costumes, the most traditional looking like bears, horses, goats, haystacks, gypsies, devils, living corpses (delightful!) and Death.  People dress up in their costumes, paying special efforts not to be recognized, and go from house to house singing, dancing and playing games.  The masque procession is believed to bring luck for the households that are visited, scaring away evil spirits.  The mummers are usually warmly welcomed, feasted and given small gifts.  By the way, it is thought that if you dance with Death, you become his friend and will not die the next year. Check out this mummers video: Latvian winter solstice masking



Czech Rose Gold Picasso Copper Floral Crystal Topaz Dangle Earrings Handmade by Kathy of KatsAllThat



Another tradition that is believed to scare away evil spirits, as well as to bring fertility and good luck, is the rolling or pulling of the yule log. The log, usually a sturdy oak with attached ropes, is rolled through the village or town to gather all the failures, the bad thoughts and bad deeds of the passing year. At the end of the procession the yule log is burned in a bonfire symbolically burning all the misfortune and sorrow to make a fresh start for the new year.  The rolling of the yule log is a joyous event and often includes some singing and dancing. Check out this video of a log pull in Riga: Pagan Log Pull - Winter Solstice Celebration



"A Happy Christmas" 1911 Antique Christmas Postcard by Colleen of postcardsintheattic



Ziemassvētki is seen as the perfect time for predicting and / or influencing the future.  Some traditions include:

  • Want to know who you will marry? Stand with your back to a fireplace and bend forward to look into the fire through your legs and you might see him.  
  • Want to know if you will have a good harvest next year? The more stars you can count in the sky on the solstice night, the better your crops will be.
  • Want to have a lot of money? Find yourself a black cat and carry it around the church.

Happy Christmas in Latvian – Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus!





Cobalt Blue Lampwork Glass Bead With Silver Large Hole Slider Charm Bead Handmade by Charlotte of Covergirlbeads



Now, onto the Countdown to Christmas 2016 - Week 10, filled with artisan handmade items (see above and below), perfect ideas for Christmas gift giving.


With the fast approaching gift giving season in mind, Julie and Blu of Blue Morning Expressions are hosting a twelve-week Countdown to Christmas 2016 on their The Blu Print blog. The twelve week time period was chosen to correspond with the Christmas carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  This week, there were 60 shares by artists of a wide range of handmade gift ideas:  jewelry of all types, pet themed gifts, crocheted and sewn beauties, favor tags, paintings,  photography, vintage items, lampwork beads and a whole host of other items.





Chocolate Chip Cookie Potholder Magnets Handmade by Juie and Blu of Blue Morning Expressions 



Shop owners on Indiemade, ArtFire, Zibbet, Etsy, SupaDupa, stand alone websites and the like are welcome to share up to three gift items on the Countdown between Friday afternoon at 12:00 p.m. (Eastern time) and Sunday night at 11:59 p.m.  Then a new collection of gift items will begin again the next Friday.  This will continue until the second week in December.  The items shared need to be G-rated.




Reversible Holiday Mommy and Me or Grandma and Me Apron Set Handmade by Mary of SimpleEmbroiderySew



If you share items on the Countdown to Christmas you MUST promote the collection and EACH item on at least one social network site, preferably Pinterest where the items can be easily seen and then saved again.  It's only fair to promote each of the participants who have promoted you!




Fossil Ammonite Neckace Pendant Necklace with Labradorite and Jasper Handmade by Mary of PrettyGonzo 



In addition to saving each item from the Countdown collection to my Pinterest board and Wanelo collection, I decided to share one item from each of the artists who participated. Here are the rest of the items I’m featuring this week, in an order that was arranged by assigning each item a number and then drawing numbers from my trusty “numbers” bowl. Enjoy!





Set of 4 Navy & Turquoise Crochet Lace Coasters Handmade by Ruth of RSSDesignsInFiber



Green and Pink Floral Suncatcher Handmade by Barbara of SolanaKaiDesigns  



Red and Green Fused Glass Christmas Pendant Necklace Handmade by Kellie of ResetarGlassArt



Sterling Silver Flute Charm Ball Post Earrings Music Themed Jewelry Handmade by Connie of TheSingingBeader



Perky Penguins with Scarves Dog or Cat Scrunchie Neck Ruffle Handmade by Donna of SewAmazin



German One Cent Euro Coin Pendant Mounted 14 kt Gold Filled Handmade by Diane of beadsouk



Woven Fleece Tug Toy Handmade by Nancy of Wyvern Designs 



Flower Christmas Earrings Handmade by Linda of Linor Store Jewelry



Candy Apple Red Dichroic Glass Jewelry Set, Pendant and Dangle Earrings, Handmade by Jo of Umeboshi Jewelry Designs




OM and Lotus Zen Yoga Earrings with Blue Czech Glass and Crystals Handmade by Catherine of Shadow Dog Designs



I hope you have enjoyed this sampling of some of the handmade gift items that can be found in the Countdown collection hosted by Julie and Blu of Blue Morning Expressions. To see all the items in the collection, please click here: Countdown to Christmas 2016 - Week 10.  I hope that at least one, maybe more, items piqued your interest and made its way to your shopping list.


What will week 11 bring?  MORE handmade and vintage beauties!  I, for one, am looking forward to it!


If you are so inclined, please make my day and leave a comment (:  Also any promotion will be greatly appreciated by everyone featured in this post.  Thank you!


In case you missed the posts from the past weeks, here are links to take you there:


Countdown to Christmas - Week 1 - Norway

Countdown to Christmas - Week 2 - Italy

Countdown to Christmas - Week 3 - Ukraine

Countdown to Christmas - Week 4 - Kenya

Countdown to Christmas - Week 5 - Portugal

Countdown to Christmas - Week 6 - Iceland

Countdown to Christmas - Week 7 - Peru

Countdown to Christmas - Week 8 - Luxembourg

Countdown to Christmas - Week 9 - Fiji



My contact information:


Indiemade shop:  ShadowDogDesigns

Indiemade blog:  ShadowDogDesigns' Blog

Artfire studio:  ShadowDogDesigns

ArtFire Blog:  ShadowDogDesigns' Blog

Google+:  Catherine W

Facebook:  ShadowDogDesigns - Jewelry

Twitter:  ShadowDogDesign

Pinterest:  Shadow Dog Designs

Wanelo:  ShadowDog

Amazine:  ShadowDogDesigns

Rebelmouse:  ShadowDogDesigns

Flickr:  Shadow Dog Designs' Photostream



Beautifully Unique Handmade Jewelry

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Where to Start

Let's start with the grey peas - now, that should take care of any crying in 2017 - the neighbor has a black cat and the church is two blocks down the street - check - I can dress like a horse and go and bother the neighbors - a couple of them drink heavily - this could be fun! Sometimes, I wonder why some traditions, like the trees, made it to the United States, but mummering didn't unless you are in PA where I think they have a huge mummer celebration. As always, Catherine, another very interesting post outlining the traditions of another country. Thank you for the post and for sharing my cookie magnets. Have shared everywhere! Belly rubs to Seamus who I am sure needs at least one for good measure. J


Thank you very much Catherine for sharing my necklace in this wonderful post on the Christmas traditions of Lativia!

Thank you Catherine for

Thank you Catherine for including my coin pendant in this interesting post about the Christmas traditions of Lativia. Will share.

Wonderful selections

Fascinating Christmas traditions of Latvia, Catherine. Thank you for including my custom pet portrait drawings with these wonderful selections. Shared.

Priecīgus Ziemassvētki!

Happy Winter Solstice!

I loved this post, Catherine! I personally am a Winter Solstice person so I love reading about how it is celebrated in other countries.

I also love seeing so many of the countdown creations in one spot. What a lot of talent. Thank you for including my creation among it all!

Will share now.

Happy All Holidays to you and everyone!


Enjoyed reading and shared....

Thank you, Catherine!


Thank you Catherine for the feature. I love reading about the traditions of other countries for Christmas.

I was really intrigued with predicting the future :Want to have a lot of money? Find yourself a black cat and carry it around the church. I have a black cat, but I don't think my church would give me money. They would definitely give lots of love to my cat.
Thanks Catherine for all that you do. Now my turn to share.

Appreciate the sharing

Thanks Catherine for the traditions in Latvia. I'm working on pinning and tweeting the items, which will take awhile.

Appreciate your sharing my Christmas earrings.

Appreciate the sharing

Thanks Catherine for the traditions in Latvia. I'm working on pinning and tweeting the items, which will take awhile.

Appreciate your sharing my Christmas earrings.

Let us celebrate!

Celebration anywhere, anytime is a fun time. The winter holidays are especially welcome and these amazing gift ideas are going to add to the smiles! Thanks for including my jewelry set!

Amazing post!

It is amazing to here how others around the world celebrate Christmas. Very informative post. Thanks for including my lampwork bead.

Fascinating & Fun!

Thanks, Catherine, for yet another fascinating piece on Christmas traditions in foreign lands. I love the role of singing and poetry in gift-giving in Latvia. Also, the Yule log celebration is really interesting. Thanks too for the extra BMECountdown promo, and for including my ammonite necklace. :) Thanksgiving treats to Le Moosie from Le Gonze, and happy holiday! Will be sharing, of course. :)

Interesting Holiday

Interesting Holiday traditions at Lativa. Thank you so much for including my Christmas cupcake toppers. Off to share.

A Unique Holiday!

This was quite a unique story about how Christmas it celebrated in Latvia. You always come up with some amazing posts. Thank you for the time to research these amazing traditions and for the promotion of our handmade items. Will be sharing.

Interesting Traditions - Great Handmade and Vintage!

The Ethnic traditions in Latvia focusing on natural beauty somehow do not surprise me, but then some of my family goes back to eastern Europe (actually Russia-Poland), though we are not Christian. But cultural traditions, which in this case are very artistic and folk oriented, tend to carry throughout an area! Thanks for showcasing all the Holiday Handmade and Vintage - including my Navy and Turquoise Crocheted Coasters. By the way - needle arts such as crochet are very common in that part of Europe - and in many other parts, too!

Christmas in Latvia

They have some very interesting traditions. I like that children receipt poems to receive their gifts. Thank you for the added promotion and the interesting read for my coffee this morning. Will share -

This is cool to check out how

This is cool to check out how to get the best gifts.

This must be great


This article is such interesting, and I am happy that found this post. It is a good design that I have ever seen. I can use this on my personal website like matching outfits for family or his and hers shirts

Thanks so much All!

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