Friday, 23 December 2011

'tis the time

Yesterday was the proper winter solstice, one of the occasions where the Latvian language has managed to keep a bit of the heathen vibe of the days before the German crusaders came along and inroduced Christmas. Linguistically the word "Christmas" in Latvian - Ziemassvētki - has nothing to do with christianity, literally it means "the celebration of winter", the word was kept from the heathen vocabulary.

so, yesterday we were supposed to celebrate winter (if we were to be proper heathen Latvians that is) but not just in any random manner,  our ancestors were particular about certain things. and they did know how to have fun.
Here are the things to do at solstice/Christmas eve/sometimes New Year's eve by extension - choose what suits best for you.
To ensure prosperity you have to serve 9 or even 12 courses on your festive gathering. So to be completely sure, one might just as well throw all 15 courses in, just for good measure.
If "prosperity" seems too broad and obscure, and your wishes are quite straight forward, say "lots of money in the next year!", there are still a couple of thing you can do. For example take a black cat and carry it around a church, here some of the directions are more specific - you have to go 3 full laps around the said church, according to some. In some other versions of this belief, you would have to be naked at the time.
In case the cat escapes, you can still attract more money by eating peas (one of the most popular dishes on the celebration table - peas with diced ham) using hands - that will ensure handfuls of money in the coming year.
collage from polyvore
And such simple action as not spending all you have on the solstice eve, should make sure you don't run out of money. Very rational.
The greatest wealth, however, is good health and there are also ways to ensure that as well on this magical night. To avoid toothache, you have to run barefoot 3 times around your house. Should keep the dentist away.
But are people ever happy just with handfuls of money and strong teeth? No, they want more. They always want to know the future. And even that is possible on this special night. 
It is said that at midnight horses (sometimes also cows, sheep and other farm animals) talk about future in human voices, so you have to hide somewhere in the stable/cowshed and listen in. Hiding is very important, should the animals see you, they would talk crap about your future; or in worst variations of this - you would turn into a horse or cow. That's right!
Another, probably less stressful, option is to go to a crossroads and stand there, then you will know all that is to happen the next year. 
If you are too lazy to go that far, you can just briskly run barefoot around your house 3 times and look into one of the windows, and you will see the future. *this can be successfully combined with the teeth-healthcare routine, I think. Oh, yes, and in some variations of this again - you will have to be completely naked, not just barefoot. And the naked thing works for the crossroad stunt as well. 
But is plain old future-knowing good enough I might ask again? Not if you happen to be an unmarried girl it isn't. Because all the future you want to know is when and to whom you will be married the coming year. Fear not, there are ways to know that as well.
If you happen to be with your unmarried girlfriends, you can do some of these activities together and compare results. One method I love - you draw twigs from the broom or the twig heap by the fireplace (because everybody has heaps of twigs sitting around in their homes nowadays). If you get a firm and tall twig, you will marry a tall, well built and wealthy guy. If your twig is small, crooked and overly dry - your suitor will be not so well-off, not very handsome and might be old as well. Sizist attitude to twigs, but should be fun.
To know whether you or any of your friends will get married the next year, you have to turn your backs to the door and throw one shoe back across your shoulder. If your shoe lands with toe pointing towards the door, you will be married before long. To see who will marry first, see which shoe lands closest to the door.
If you already have a boyfriend and want to see if you will stay together, pour two drops of candle wax into a bowl of water and see if they meet and melt together. If they do, so will you. If not, well, maybe go draw a twig...
There is also one for the lazy ones - just go to sleep and remember whom you dream about. The guy who will hand you a shirt in the dream will be The One.
I can't help but wonder if people really managed to do all this and follow through with a dozen of other solstice traditions and prepare those insane meals and get on with daily tasks.
Today we are somewhere between  this, the christian Christmas, tangerines, mass produced Santa outfits and home made Christmas-tree  decorations. The joys of being Latvian in the 21st century.

Happy Holidays!

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