Latvia, with Estonia in the North, Lithuania in the South, and the Baltic Sea with its Gulf of Riga to the West and Russia in the East, is a large, fertile lowland located in northeastern Europe. The capital, Riga, once part of the Hanseatic League, remains a beautiful city.

Most Latvians are Letts and Latgalians, Baltic groups akin to the Slavs. Their celebrations in song and dance have been listed as special UNESCO cultural assets that should be saved.

Baltic Song and Dance

Baltic song and dance celebrations, listed along with Estonia and Lithuania, are “a showcase for the region’s tradition of performing folk art.” The events are held on a grand scale every few years and in Latvia were first organized in 1873. When the Baltic States gained freedom from Russia after the First World War, the celebrations gained widespread popularity as a way of “asserting Baltic cultural identity.”

In the three countries, special venues and festival sites were built to host the events. As many as 40,000 singers and dancers take part, most belonging to amateur choirs and dance groups. After the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union at the end of the Second World War, the celebrations adapted to the communist ideology of the times. After gaining independence in 1991, however, Latvia, along with Estonia and Lithuania, has taken special measures to ensure the protection of its age-old traditions.

Every five years up to 40,000 costumed singers and dancers gather in Latvia to sing both ancient folk songs and contemporary compositions. (State Agency of Intangible Cultural Republic of Latvia)
Every five years up to 40,000 costumed singers and dancers gather in Latvia to sing both ancient folk songs and contemporary compositions. (State Agency of Intangible Cultural Republic of Latvia)

Suiti Cultural Space

The Suiti are a small Catholic group of people living in the Protestant (Lutheran) west of Latvia. The “Suiti culture is characterized by several distinct features, including vocal drone singing performed by Suiti women, wedding traditions, colourful traditional costumes” and the language itself. There is also local cuisine to protect, religious traditions and “a remarkable number of folk songs, dances and melodies.”

According to UNESCO notes, “older forms of extended family structures are still common here, and such families, where the transfer of skills from generation to generation takes place” are important to Suiti culture.

There is actually a “synthesis of pre-Christian traditions and religious rituals that have created a unique blend of intangible cultural heritage.” Today, only a few older people remember this heritage, and UNESCO considers it in “Need of Urgent Safekeeping.”

Family bread-baking is done by the women using age-old recipes and techniques. (State Agency of Intangible Cultural Republic of Latvia)
Family bread-baking is done by the women using age-old recipes and techniques.
(State Agency of Intangible Cultural Republic of Latvia)
A trunk dating back to 1890 is a family heirloom and an example of Suiti carving and folk art. (Ethnic Culture Centre Suiti Foundation)
A trunk dating back to 1890 is a family heirloom and an example of Suiti carving and folk art. (Ethnic Culture Centre Suiti Foundation)

Susan Hallett is an award-winning writer and editor who has written for The Beaver, The Globe & Mail, Wine Tidings, and Doctor’s Review, among others. She is currently the European editor of Taste & Travel International. Email: hallett_susan@hotmail.com

Share

Video Popular

  • Celebrating Arbor Day With Books

    Celebrating Arbor Day With Books

    Trees were once considered sacred and awe-inspiring: Oaks were worshiped by the European Druids, redwoods were a part of American Indian ritual, and baobabs a part of African tribal life. Ancient Chin...

  • Sharks Eat Their Greens, Too—First Omnivorous Species Confirmed

    Sharks Eat Their Greens, Too—First Omnivorous Species Confirmed

    Not all sharks feed only on meat—at least one shark species also feeds on seagrass. Scientists have confirmed that one of the most common sharks in the world is an omnivore. The bonnethead shark, a re...

  • Microsoft Flags Dangers to EU of Plans to Limit Data Use

    Microsoft Flags Dangers to EU of Plans to Limit Data Use

    Microsoft said on Sept. 5, that EU lawmakers’ copyright reforms limiting the use of potentially valuable data to non-profit bodies could damage the European Union’s digital development. Co...

  • How Setting a Schedule Can Make You Less Productive

    How Setting a Schedule Can Make You Less Productive

    It can seem like there’s never enough time—not enough for sleep and not enough for play, not enough for cooking. and not enough for exercise. There’s a relatively new term to describe this feeling: ti...

  • RiNo, Denver: America’s Best Place for a Bar Crawl?

    RiNo, Denver: America’s Best Place for a Bar Crawl?

    “RiNo reminds me of Williamsburg in 2004—just pretentious enough to be good, not yet pretentious enough to be annoying.” Kevin Burke is joking, of course. As the general manager of American Bonded—one...

  • Respecting Teachers and Cherishing Virtue

    Respecting Teachers and Cherishing Virtue

    Respecting teachers and cherishing virtues are part of the traditional ethics practiced by the Chinese people. Teachers, who impart morality, knowledge, and values, teach people the proper ways to int...

  • Home Ownership in Canada Declines, Reversing Long Upward Trend

    Home Ownership in Canada Declines, Reversing Long Upward Trend

    Home ownership in Canada fell for the first time in over 45 years, according to a Point2Homes study released this week. It had reached a record high of 69 percent in 2011, but as of 2016, it fell to 6...

  • Aretha Franklin Dresses, Hats to Go up for Auction

    Aretha Franklin Dresses, Hats to Go up for Auction

    NEW YORK—More than 30 dresses and accessories worn on stage by Aretha Franklin are going up for auction. The Queen of Soul died at age 76 in Detroit on Aug. 16. Julien’s Auctions says the items ...

  • 87 Elephants Found Slaughtered in Botswana, Africa

    87 Elephants Found Slaughtered in Botswana, Africa

    An alarming number of elephant carcasses have been discovered in aerial surveys across Botswana in what has been described as a “poaching frenzy.” Botswana was once known as a sanctuary fo...

  • Yes, Marijuana Can Be Addictive

    Yes, Marijuana Can Be Addictive

    The business world is salivating at the potential $22.6 billion recreational marijuana market in Canada, with more new pot users expected after legalization on Oct. 17. But public-health officials wan...

  • Google Races to Parry the Rise of Facebook in India

    Google Races to Parry the Rise of Facebook in India

    Google retains only a slight lead over Facebook in the competition for digital ad dollars in the crucial India market, sources familiar with the figures say, even though the search giant has been in t...

  • Canada in Brief, Sept. 6-12

    Canada in Brief, Sept. 6-12

    Trudeau says he won’t use ‘tricks’ to ram through pipeline construction Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pouring cold water on Alberta’s suggestion that the federal government use legislation or a cou...