If you ever needed a reason to visit Latvia, it doesn’t get more authentic than this: every Summer Solstice, Latvia is searching for the legendary fern blossom (Papardes zieds), in a pagan festival known locally by many names: Līgo!, Jāņi Day, Grass Day, and Grass Evening. Call it what you may, Latvians consider this the most authentic and the most Latvian of their holidays.The mystical fern flower blooms only once a year, in the night of Jāņi. The flower, a local symbol of fertility, is the magic that binds young couples, who spend the solstice night seeking for it into the dark woods. According to some folklorists, the fern flower is most commonly read as a euphemism for sex, and children resulting from this union are the “fern flowers.”
Līgo! and Jāņi are still celebrated according to ancient, pagan traditions, that require people to wash their faces with the morning dew, to harvest herbs that hold magical powers only at midsummer, and to lit large bonfires – a celebration that still bears traces of an ancient cult of the Sun.
For the people of Latvia, Jāņi Day is the ideal occasion to celebrate the country side, and preserve traditions that shaped the Latvian spirit from ancient times till today. Those who cannot celebrate the event at the country side, enjoy special programs in bars, city squares, and other locations. Since this is a national holiday, you can expect to see it everywhere in Latvia. Latvians in diaspora celebrate as well – you’ll get a taste of the true Latvia everywhere in the world where Latvians live, but the most spectacular events are still held around Riga. Summers are the best times to visit this beautiful country.