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Lieldienas eggs
Lieldienas eggs

The Christian festival of Easter is celebrated in Latvia as Lieldienas ([lield̪ien̪as̪]). Lieldienas enters Holy Week with Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, but Sunday will mark first Lieldienas. Second Lieldienas is on Monday of the following week. Each day has a special significance. Also, many pagan elements of celebrating Lieldienas have become a tradition.kids

Lieldienas dates

Lieldienas celebration dates
recent and coming years
Year Western Christians Orthodox
2004 11 April
2005 27 March 1 May
2006 16 April 23 April
2007 8 April
2008 23 March 27 April
2009 12 April 19 April
2010 4 April
2011 24 April
2012 8 April 15 April
2013 31 March 5 May
2014 20 April
2015 5 April 12 April
2016 27 March 1 May
2017 16 April
2018 1 April 8 April

Nowadays, the common date of Lieldienas is the first Sunday after the first full moon, after or during the vernal equinox. Thus, the Western Christian Church Lieldienas falls on a date between 22 March and 25 April. In Eastern Orthodox Churches, which used the Julian calendar, Lieldienas falls on a date between 4 April and 8 May in Gregorian calendar.

Latvian customs of celebrating Lieldienas

Before the arrival of Christianity, Lieldienas was a spring equinox event, celebrating the victory of light over darkness.

Egg-related beliefs

Although dainas have no conclusive indication of egg painting tradition in ancient times, the majority of them mention golden, silver and white eggs. Therefore, it can be concluded that egg painting is more of a modern tradition. In order for eggs to be diverse, they were boiled with colorful cloth. In one area, grits are poured in, while in other, people added colorful birch leaves, fir needles, cells, a variety of flowers, herbs or just reel them with a colorful yarn. Every family have a different way of following this tradition.

Wizards also colored eggs in ancient times and laid them under the horse or cattle's troughs, to cast a misfortune of cattle plague on whoever they wanted. People were afraid of such wizard's eggs.

People believed that particular magical power was inherent even in water, which boiled eggs. They believed it helped to ward off hawks from chickens: the swishing sauna whisks were hooked between the fence poles on Lieldienas morning and were filled with water which was used to boil eggs.

While eating an egg, people watched how the eggshell separated - if it came off well, it meant the flax will grow well; if it shed badly, then it meant a bad flax harvest. Eggs also involved in a lot of other beliefs:

Swing-related beliefs

Hanging swings and selecting a place was a special honorable duty. Swings were usually made from oak or ashen poles. Swings location was chosen on the hill, between 2 oak trees. Along with the swinging occurred a great singing. Guys, who swung with girls, were gifted with eggs, and even gloves and socks. Swinging lasts for 1 week after Lieldienas, and then the swings were burned, so witches could not swing on them.

The celebration could not go on without beating eggs. Each received their egg in their hands and thought of a wish; then 2 people clapped their eggs with thin ends together. Whose egg does not break - their wish would come true. Eggs were also rolled - via a special chute.

One of the oldest performances is bird healing. Birds symbolized evil and disease. By driving them away from the fences and fields, it was believed that all evil and accidents would be dispelled.

When the sun rose on Lieldienas morning, just above the horizon, people swung 3 times on one side of a swing, and 3 times on the other side. It was caused by the habit of swinging on Lieldienas. Before swinging, people walked around the swings 3 times, singing songs, then guys threw eggs over poles, predicting their lifespan, and only then they began to swing.

In other areas, the first Lieldienas held an egg hunt. Young boys went to the neighboring houses, searching for Lieldienas eggs. Eggs were requested by the girls, which was the main reason for looting.

Several folk songs mention that people celebrated Lieldienas 4 days, some of them mention only 3. Beliefs also mention 4 days. For example, one belief says "do not work for 4 days of Lieldienas - children from other houses will begin to limp". Therefore, one can think that in the past, along with Ziemassvētki, Latvians celebrated Lieldienas for 4 days. Later on, both festivals were reduced to 1 day.

Other Lieldienas beliefs