International Folklore Festival „BALTICA”
International Folklore Festival „Baltica” is a most popular large-scale feast of traditional culture in the Baltic States involving folk groups which popularize the authentic folklore and traditions, as well as facilitate preservation of traditional culture in the cultural processes. The mission of the Festival is to preserve, develop and popularize to the public at large the traditional culture and skills of intangible cultural heritage of Latvians, Livs, Latgalians and other nations; to facilitate development of nation`s moral values, spirituality, self-esteem and stability as well as to strengthen the cohesion of generations and preservation of patrimonial traditions.
The Festival takes part annually on the second week of July in one of the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) according to requirements of CIOFF – International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals and Folk Arts under UNESCO. The Festival in Latvia has been awarded a CIOFF certificate. In 1987, for the first time the Festival was organized in Lithuania. In Latvia, one year later – in 1988. Folklore Festival „Baltica-2012” will be held in Latvia on its significant 25th anniversary and it will be the 9th anniversary since it was organized in Latvia.
In spite of the fact that each year the venues of the International Festival „Baltica” in Latvia have changed – it has been organized in Vidzeme, Kurzeme, Latgale and Zemgale, always it was held in Riga – in the capital of Latvia. According to the wishes of participants, the festival venues have been invariably organized also in Turaida, on the Hill of Dainas (Folk-songs), in that way acknowledging it as a place of national identity, where have been transmitted skills of traditional singing, music making and dancing and cultivated national customs and traditions.
In Latvia during the Festival „Baltica” each time there have been represented more than 120 folklore groups and ethnographic ensembles from all Regions of Latvia as well as studies of decorative and applied arts, storytellers, craftsmen and individual perfomers (about 200 participants), and 10 foreign folklore groups from different continents and regions. Usually the venues of the Festival are planned in the squares of towns and rural areas, in the streets, on the stages, hillforts, concert halls, and other showplaces as well as in holy places nearby secular trees, huge stones and springs.
Until now, there have been held eight Festivals in Latvia. Each of them had common themes, by the way of wich the participants of the Festival have demontrated their national traditions through performances and emphasized the wisdom and experience of life, values and recognitions which keep alive national intangible heritage. In the Festival there were developed the following themes: the Sun, Family Celebrations, This World – That World, Man and Work, Water, Earth, Our Home and Signs. The theme chosen for International Folklore Festival „Baltica-2012”will be „The Way”.
Latvian Folklore Celebrations
One of the principal tasks of Turaida Museum Reserve is preservation of intangible cultural heritage, therefore Latvian folklore celebrations are held annualy to popularize Latvian wisdom and experience of life in society and to offer an opportunity to foreign tourists to get to know Latvian traditional culture. The most visited in Turaida Museum Reserve is Summer Solstice Celebration on June 21, when in unity with nature participants take part in ancient fire rituals, prise the sun in the songs and sing Līgo songs. The whole night is celebrated as the shortest night of the year together with folklore groups from different parts of Latvia and together with foundation „Māras loks”.
Latvian Folklore Celebrations are a constituent part of traditional culture, rich in various traditions, rituals and activities, the main task of which is to be in unitity with nature, to facilitate generosity and reject evil, to be thankful for what has been acquired and achieved as well as to provide fertility and good harvest for the following year.
One of the characteristic features of Folklore celebrations is a reccurence of permanent traditions from year to year, reassuring about unchangeable flow of time and harmony in natural processes. From year to year, performing the same activities, people develop stability, self-confidence, belief in their own strength, confidence in their abilities – that is so substantial for present-day society.
All festive days for Latvians have personalized fabulous images or mythological beings. Annually these mythological beings with their symbolical arrival at certain times are like celestial messengers, who interpret to people astronomical events and as a result of interaction with these events, they obtain new qualities. These qualities help them to be better understandable in daily life, in such a way being loved and respected like us. Belief in mythological deities, reliance on their strength and protection, helped ancient Latvians to understand natural phenomena and to live in accordance with the rules of life and nature.
During Folklore celebrations, peace and activity intertwin as a whole. Clebrating the feast, you can either immerse in meditation and reflection or through the song and music unite with primeval deities and experience vital joy by dancing and singing. You can also realize your abilities and learn new skills through the ancient rituals.
The most popular Latvian Folklore Celebrations:
– Shrovetide carnival (Metenis)
– Spring equinox or Easter according to national traditions
– Day of Ūsiņš – the god of bees, horses and light
– Summer solstice or Līgo festivity
– Day of Māra – the highest-ranking goddess
– Autumn equinox or Miķeļi
– Mārtiņi – the feast of god, who protected Latvians and their livestock
– Winter solstice or Christmas according to national traditions