Merry Christmas!: A Latvian Tradition

Merry Christmas!

Western Christianity – Catholic and Protestant churches – today celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ.

Did you know the first recorded use of a decorated Christmas tree was in Riga, Latvia, in 1510? The Brotherhood of Blackheads, a fraternity of unmarried merchants and traders, erected an evergreen tree outside their house in the town square. Little is known about the actual tree, except that it was decorated with paper flowers and burnt after the ceremonies.

Today, a plaque sits in Riga’s Town Square commemorating the tradition. In eight languages, it has engraved, “The first New Years Tree in Riga in 1510.”


Latvian children believe that Ziemassvētku vecītis (Christmas Old Man) places presents underneath the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Sometimes, depending on the legend, the Latvian-version of Santa Claus is accompanied by Snow White and dwarves. But before kids can open the presents, they must first sometimes sing a song or recite a poem.

I’ll end this short post in Latvian:

Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus! Merry Christmas!

This entry was posted in Culture, History, Latvia, Religion and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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