Monday, November 26, 2012

Svecīšu vakars - The Eve of Candles

It is hard to believe how fast time goes by! This trip to Latvia has been very different than all the other visits in the last 18 years that I've lived abroad. This time around I have a little Australian with me who is handled and fussed over by all grandmothers like a little egg. He can't be let out for too long so he doesn't get sick and he gets all the attention in the world! And I am loving it :)

I've almost lived away from Latvia as long as I've lived in the country but Latvia will always be my home, no matter what government, how long I've lived away, what has happened in my life.

While other countries have days where they remember the military, Latvia has a day called "The Eve of Candles", where all those who have lived before us are remembered. I think it's such a beautiful tradition as the idea is to go to the cemetery, clean up the gravesite, light some candles and spend the day with people close to you.

While it might sound a little bit morbid to the Westerners who are not used to going to the cemetery, it is a very calm, peaceful, lovely tradition for us, which bridges the dark evenings of late fall and the beginning of winter.

Yesterday we piled up in my dad's van and took off to visit various graves of those who've lived and passed. We visited the gravesite of my dad's wife's daughter and husband, we visited my dad's mom and dad and his other relatives. 

We lit up candles on the graves and shared some of our favourite memories of the people. It was lovely.

Afterwards we went to the big memorial garden/gravesite to all the Latvian soldier's. It truly warmed the heart to see all the candles lit on the soldier's gravesides in the misty and dark Latvian evening.
Walking through the place really brought the sense of patriotism and thankfulness for all those people who have given their lives so we can be free and have our own country. 

At the very end we went to the memorial to the first Latvian president Jānis Čakste. Latvia gained its independence only in 1918, before this time we were slaves to anyone who had a bigger army and wasn't too lazy to occupy us - Germans, Swedes, Polish and many others throughout the centuries.

Afterwards we all headed to my dad's sister's place, who is also my godmother. Who happens to be the best godmother in the world! We were spoiled with crayfish (which is considered a delicatessen in Latvia), we had caviar and lots of home made goodies! 

My cousin and her family were there as well, which was lovely as Daniel was able to spend time with his cousins.
It was such a sweet, warm, family-oriented day! I loved it! In fact we all did! Now we can't wait for Neil to join us and experience all these lovely things with us!

No comments: