Daudz Laimes Vārda Dienā man! That’s Latvian for HAPPY NAMES DAY TO ME! Yes, today (September 22) is my names day! And for those of you who don’t know, I am Latvian.
Latvia is one the European countries that celebrates name days (vārda dienas). A names day celebration is pretty comparable in importance to that of a birthday. You can see my name officially listed on the Latvian calendar here. Growing up (especially with Latvian grandparents) celebrating our names day was a really big deal. We would get together as a family and have dinner, open presents, eat dessert and of course have yellow bread (klingeris). Klingeris a is a saffron-scented bread made of yeast dough with dried fruits and almond slices on top that is often shaped into a figure eight and decorated with flowers. One of the many things I miss about my grandparents is my Grammi’s delicious yellow bread (that’s what we called it). I have so many memories being at her house and watching/helping her make it. She was a really good cook and made so many delicious Latvian dishes. When my sister and I were younger, Grammi would always make yellow bread for us to take to school and share with our classmates and teachers (that’s what you’re supposed to do). She of course would also make us an extra bread to eat at home.
Since the passing of both of my grandparents, we haven’t really celebrated our names days like we used too. Often, my parents will get us a card, send flowers or maybe even give us a small gift, but we definitely don’t celebrate like we used too. However, this past Sunday we got together as a family and celebrated my names day. My Dad and sister Ariana also made me yellow bread! This is probably the closest they have ever gotten to it tasting like Grammi’s. Here’s an awesome picture of the yellow bread they made for me. Yum, yum, yum!
To see more Latvian names and names days click here.
Just for fun, here are some facts about Latvia and me:
- I’m 1/2 Latvian and very proud!
- Sveiks means hello in Latvian.
- Marisa means “of the sea.” According to urban dictionary Marisa means “A very happy, bubbly person who laughs a lot. Usually a brunette with curly hair. A Marisa is confident and has many friends.” Haha sounds pretty good and accurate!
- My grandparents fled Latvia when the Soviets took over. Unfortunately, they were caught and sent to a DP camp (displaced persons camp) in Germany. My Dad was actually born in the DP camp in 1950. After a few years, my grandparents and Dad were finally sponsored by a family in Oklahoma to come to the US. Later they moved to San Bruno, CA where my Dad grew up.
- We spent many Sundays and Holidays at Latvian Hall in San Francisco. My parents actually had their wedding reception there.
- When Chris and I got married we made little note cards that had different facts from both of our heritages. It was fun looking up different traditions. We also did a few Latvian things. Normally had weddings people hit their glass to make the couple kiss. At our wedding my Dad kept having everyone yell rūgts rūgts rūgts which means bitter. Chris and I had to kiss to make it sweet. So cool and fun! It’s also tradition to establish who will be the budget holder. My Latvian cousin Anda made us pīrāgs (basically a baked roll with bacon/ham/onion inside…so good!) which a coin had been baked inside. We split the pīrāgs and whoever got the piece with the coin in it would be the family budget holder! Guess who won…ME! This was so fun and made our wedding all the more memorable!
- Latvia borders Estonia in the north, Lithuania in the south, the Baltic Sea with the Gulf of Riga in the west, Russia in the east, and Belarus in the southeast.
- The capital of Latvia is Riga and is well known for its Art Nouveau architecture.
- The Latvian flag is one of the oldest in the world dating back to the second half of the 13th century. The distinctive dark red color of the is sometimes referred to, by the rest of the world, as ‘Latvian red’.
- Almost 30,000 people of Latvian descent live in the U.S. (just like me!)
- The national bird is the balta cielava or white wagtail (Motacilla alba)
- The national insect is the two-spot ladybird (Adalia bipunctata). The insect’s Latvian name – marite – is a synonym for the ancient Latvian goddess Mara, who embodies the power of the earth.
- Amber has long been viewed as a precious stone associated with the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. Latvians themselves have occasionally referred to the Baltic Sea as the Amber Sea (Dzintarjura), reinforcing the symbolic importance of amber (dzintars) in Latvian culture and history.
- The Freedom Monument (Brivibas piemineklis) is the symbol of Latvias independence. It was designed by Latvian sculptor Karlis Zale. At the base of the monument sculptural reliefs illustrate different significant moments in Latvia’s history, while the very top displays the symbol of freedom.
- The Latvian Song and Dance Festival (Vispārējie latviešu Dziesmu un Deju svētki) is one of the most noteworthy events in Latvia’s cultural life. The Song and Dance Festival has been held since 1873. During the festivals exhibitions of photography, art and folk craft, orchestra concerts, and a festive parade also take place. My grandparents would record the festival on tv and make my sister and I watch. I also recall that there was a big song and dance festival held in SF a long, long time ago that I attend with my Dad and grandparents. I think I have one of these traditional dress somewhere too! Pretty cool to have such rich culture!
Ok, this post is way longer than I ever intended it to be. I just got carried away talking about all things Latvian hehe. Sometimes I forget how much a part of this culture I really am. My sisters and I both have Latvian names, we celebrate our names day, eat traditional food during the holidays and know how to say a few words/phrases. And…our Dad/grandparents immigrated here, so technically (on my dads side) we are first generation. Carzy! I know that although I barely speak any Latvian, being Latvian is a huge part of who I am. I hope to continue some of the traditions I already practice with my own family and who knows, maybe my futures kids will have Latvian names! Visiting Latvian is also on my list of things to do! I would have loved to visit with my grandparents, but maybe going with my Dad and Latvian cousin will be just as fun!
Paldies (thanks) for reading this long post everyone! Hope you learned a little something today and that you have a great week!