Traditions of Latvia

Latvians – simple and hardworking

The life of the Latvian people has always been rich and varied. Their culture, history and cuisine are proof of the richness of the Baltic peoples. Latvia has learned a lot from its neighbors, including Belarus, Russia and Estonia.


The exact date of the emergence of the Latvians is unknown. It is assumed that the first tribes here appeared in the 3rd millennium BC. It is believed, however, that the first representatives of the modern people of Latvia appeared in the Baltics in the first millennium BC. The way of life of the people was formed under the influence of the Latgalian tribes. A long period of peace allowed the people to develop successfully until the end of the Middle Ages. At the end of the 12th century Catholic Europe turned its eyes to Latvia and sent an army of crusaders to the country. The Livonian Order conquered the territory of modern Latvia and Estonia, founding the Archbishopric of Riga here. By the end of the 15th century serfdom is established, which greatly affects the life of the indigenous population. Even then the idea of reformation and resistance to feudal authorities begins to emerge. Several countries begin active disputes over local territories. Livonia, Russia, Sweden and Denmark take part. Livonia passed from one country to another, later Poland joined the fight for land. The country gained its first independence in 1920, when an agreement was signed between the USSR and Latvia. But already after 14 years, a dictatorship reigns here, and then the Communist Party comes to power. Later, the troops of the Nazi army invaded here. As a result, true independence for Latvia waited only in 1991.


The culture of holidays in Latvia has developed a special culture. Latvians celebrate Christmas in winter, Easter in spring, Ligo in summer and Apjumibas in autumn. Ligo is the main holiday. Also Ivan’s day is celebrated together with Ligo. These are two national holidays, so June 23-24 you’re unlikely to see many people on the streets. Most people go closer to nature. Ligo is considered a pagan holiday, which is surprising for a strictly Catholic country. On this day, people bake bread, make cheese, and drink beer. On Ligo it is customary to weave wreaths to float them down the river. People sing songs, and boys and girls jump over the bonfire. During the Christmas season, people tend to visit the church and participate in the widely organized street skits celebrating the holiday. Latvians eat gray peas on this significant day. Easter is celebrated in approximately the same way as in Ukraine and Russia. However, there is one notable feature: the eggs are not only painted, but also arrange a competition in which one egg must roll to “outrun” the other. The holiday was traditionally celebrated at the end of field work. Nowadays, the holiday is celebrated rather rarely. It is rather popular among the villagers than the townspeople.

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The population of Latvia speaks in official Latvian, which is recognized as the state language. At the same time more than 81% of the population speaks Russian. It is connected with the old relations between the countries. Some centuries ago each Latvian school had to conduct lessons in Russian language. There were exams, during which students were required to read literature in Russian.


The name of the country comes from the name of the Latgalian tribes. The Germans called Latvia “Lettia,” and the modern name comes from the Lithuanian “latviai.


Latvian theater is very popular in Europe. One of the first playwrights who managed to become famous was Adolf Alunan, who staged a play in 1869. At that time, Latvian theater was characterized by expression and hyperbole. Later playwrights began to be inspired by the Russian scene. Noteworthy were the plays of Rainis and Aspazija, in which history echoed folklore. Note that Aspasia’s plays were devoted to the struggle for women’s rights. They resonated widely with the masses, and the fact that the plays were written by a woman only strengthened the effect. Music among Latvians was originally folk music. After the Crusades in Latvia, European motifs began to appear here. In general, the musical culture of the country is very developed. The government pays a lot of attention to the construction of philharmonic and opera houses. Prominent musicians from all over the world come here. The most famous architectural masterpieces are concentrated in Riga. Its historic center is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Its architecture is unique in its use of Gothic Art Nouveau. An example of the brightest achievement in architecture is the building of the Brotherhood of Blackheads. Many houses and fortresses were built of wood.

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Dance had a special place in people’s lives. During feudalism, people secretly gathered in taverns and created dances that later became national treasures. Traditionally, all of them are reminiscent of the life of villagers. In the movements we can guess harvesting, sowing wheat, mowing the grass.

The formation of Latvian cuisine took a very long time. It clearly shows motifs of German, Belarusian, Estonian and Russian cuisine. European and Arab nations have always tended to prepare simple but hearty meals. Latvians add to the list. One of the famous national dishes is skabputra – sour porridge, although now it has lost its former popularity. Everyday food of Latvians is familiar to everyone who was born and grew up in Russia or Ukraine – these are cutlets, vegetable salads, baked fish. The main dishes can be conditionally divided into:

  • fish
  • meat
  • vegetable and leguminous
  • sweet
  • bread.

The latter is a special ingredient. Bread in Latvia can be used to make yogurt, ice cream, and soup. In stores bread is baked with the addition of dried fruits, nuts and carrots. Of the most popular meats, Latvians prefer pork. In the past, the whole carcass was eaten – from tail to ears. Many restaurants in Riga offer medieval pork dishes. The most popular meat dish is pork knuckle. Vegetables should always be present on the table. Cumin, potatoes, and cabbage are added to them. A lot of people in Latvia eat pea soups, and at Christmas, bean soups become the main dish on the table.

The most common desserts are buns. They give way to cakes and pastries. Buns are baked simple: with poppy seed, jam or cottage cheese. Exotic desserts are buberte, which are made from semolina and whipped cream, and bread soup with jam and raisins. There are a number of purely national dishes.

  1. Peasant breakfast – boiled potatoes with smoked loin, homemade sausage, poured with scrambled eggs.
  2. Rye vegetable pie sklandrausis, similar to a waffle with carrots, eggs, sour cream and potatoes.
  3. Beefsteak klops seasoned with onion sauce.
  4. Silkyu pudinches – casserole with herring and potatoes.
  5. For Latvians, the combination of cottage cheese and potatoes is common. It’s a dish they eat every day.


Various ethnographers have described Latvians in different ways. For example, Gustav Pauli said that Latvians were all medium-sized, with long faces, thick cheeks, and long noses. Merkel described Latvians as strong, ruddy, sullen-looking people. Most ethnographers agree that Latvians are predominantly slender. It is rare to find fat people among them. By nature they are quite strong and physically developed.

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Folk costume varies depending on the region. Many historians are surprised by how complicated the elements of performance are, because in ancient times people sewed traditional outfits by hand. Making one suit could take a whole year. Basically, wool and linen were used. The wool had to be washed, combed and dried. The yarn was twisted exclusively by hand. Flax required even more attention, because it was extracted from the stems of the tree. In order to get the material suitable for making an outfit, a complex and lengthy procedure of yarn preparation was required. The next step was bleaching. Dyes were used exclusively natural ones, which complicated the process even more. The basic element of clothes for the Latvians was a shirt, and women’s shirts reached up to their shins. Men had half jackets and long pants. Headdresses were used by men and women, and unmarried women had a simple wreath of flowers, and married beauties wore shawls. The man was obliged to wear a hat. The main type of footwear for women was small black shoes, and for men – boots. Clothes were decorated with a brooch and tied with a woven belt.


The life of the inhabitants of the capital and other cities was quite different. For example, Jurmala, which is considered to be the most famous resort in the Baltic States, attracts many tourists and is considered to be the most sought-after by students due to its regular increase in funding. Residents of small towns often face unemployment, so they rush to other European countries or to the capital. The government tries to support even those cities with the highest levels of poverty. Subsidies and allowances are constantly allocated. However, the most comfortable level of life, according to the Latvians themselves, is only in Riga. Riga is different from many European capitals – it is quite quiet, there are not many cars, there are many cafes and public institutions. The city is considered small, so many places can be reached on foot. At the same time, the city is considered expensive if you add up all the expenses of an average resident. The locals themselves say that the high prices are compensated by the sea, lack of bustle and cleanliness of the city. The most expensive is heating, but it can be waived. The state partially compensates the cost of paying for kindergarten. The development of the information field allows to use many services via the Internet. In Latvia now live in addition to Latvians Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Germans and other nationalities.

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Latvians are friendly and smiling people, but the history of their country is not simple, so tourists often note the sullenness of the locals. Latvians are not punctual, they do not like to be in a hurry and consider their haste to be more of a disadvantage than an advantage. They prefer not to recall the past, considering it bad form. Most people work hard, so they don’t spend a lot of time entertaining themselves. Latvians are people who still have a lot of interesting things to do in the future. Thanks to European Union financial aid and great interest from tourists, their country has every opportunity for further development. The diversity of culture and the government’s ongoing contribution to it makes Latvia even more attractive.

Latvian culture


Due to the country’s location at the crossroads of Western and Eastern Europe, Latvian culture is colorful and rich. Thanks to the influence of several cultures at once, Latvia has beautiful architectural monuments and a variety of religions. But here have also preserved local customs and traditions. Therefore, tourists are always interested in Latvia.

Due to the country’s location at the crossroads of Western and Eastern Europe, Latvian culture is colorful and rich. Thanks to the influence of several cultures at once, Latvia has beautiful architectural monuments and a variety of religions. But here have also preserved local customs and traditions. Therefore, tourists are always interested in Latvia.

What is remarkable about Latvian culture?

In general, the culture of Latvia is largely related to its capital city, Riga. Many folk song festivals are held here. Also in Riga there are many theaters. These are, first of all, the Latvian National Theater and Daile theater. But the culture is not only in the capital – and in other, smaller, cities in the country you can get to know the old traditions of the Latvians even closer.

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Latvian culture

Latvian Religion

Surprisingly, there is no state religion in Latvia. Most of the Religion in Latvia is Lutheranism, Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Lutherans are most common in the center of the country. Catholicism is most widespread in the east. And among Russian-speaking population the Orthodox predominate.

Latvian culture

Economy of Latvia

The country is a member of the European Union. The official currency unit of the country is euro. The economy of Latvia is largely dependent on the service sector. Also an important industry is tourism in Latvia. In recent years this sector brings the country about 70% of GDP.

Latvian culture

Science in Latvia

Latvia is a small country, but it has given the world many famous scientists. The science of Latvia can be proud of such personalities as Walter Sapp (creator of MINOX miniature camera), Wilhelm Ostvald (developer of new nitrate fertilizers) and Janis Robins (inventor of new technologies for iron casting).

Latvian culture

Latvian art

Along with all other spheres of life Latvia’s art is quite developed. Latvian literature is dominated by folklore. Music in Latvia has long been developed under the influence of German culture. But already at the end of the 19th century a school of its own begins to form in the country.

Latvian culture

Latvian cuisine

The national cuisine of Latvia will not leave anyone indifferent. The dishes here are nourishing and quite easy to prepare. Do not be surprised if you are offered bread or berry soup for the first course. Also characteristic of the local cuisine is fish. Mostly it is herring, Baltic salmon and cod. The main national dishes in Latvia are cold beet soup and gray peas with bacon.

Latvian culture

Latvian customs and traditions

The attachment of local people to their homeland has left its mark on the customs and traditions of Latvia. The main holiday here is Janov’s Day, which is celebrated on June 23. It is the summer solstice holiday. It is an analogue of Ivan Kupala. On it it is accepted to bake bread, boil beer and cheese. All night people walk, sing songs, weave wreaths and let them on the river.

Latvian culture

Latvian Sports

The most popular sport in Latvia is hockey. Basketball is also popular here. Many Latvian basketball players have played in the NBA. The most successful athlete is Maris Stombergs. He became a two-time Olympic champion in BMX in 2008 and 2012.

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