One of the most striking features of Latvian culture to visitors is the midsummer festival of Ligo or Jani - a celebration of the summer solstice and the feast day of St. John the Baptist. Each year on the evening of June 23 Riga becomes a ghost city; the same thing happens to the rest of Latvian cities and towns. Latvians leave for the countryside to visit friends or relatives, traditionally wreaths of leaves and flowers are worn on the head. Around midnight bonfires are lit - it is considered lucky to jump over these fires. The sun goes down only for a very short moment on Midsummer's Eve. You can hear folk songs chanted everywhere. The refrain word Ligo means "to sway rhythmically". Midsummer Day is a celebration of fertility and vitality, of the longest day and the shortest night of the year. Cheese flavoured with caraway and a drink made from birch sap are traditional fare at Ligo firesides. Young couples search for non-existent fern flower - the symbol of eternal love.
Latvian Song and Dance Festival
Latvian Song and Dance Festivals have been held since 1873, normally every five years, the next festival is scheduled for 2008. During the festivals exhibitions of photography, art and folk craft also take place. Events and competitions leading up to the event occur throughout the period between festivals. Usually dainas and classical choir songs are sung, recently modern popular songs were incorporated into the repertoire.
Festival of Animated Films
The program of the Festival includes the films participating in competition and out of competition films reviews, as well as the review of retrospective and informative films (In 2006 there have been demonstrated 229 films from 34 countries in total).