Meteņi: Good-bye Winter! Hello Spring!

A Latvian Celebration

Winter is on its way out. Spring is on its way in. Sledding and traveling by horse drawn sleigh are a big part of the festival.

Latvians work hard, but they also play hard and celebrate often. Just as they’ve finished celebrating Christmas and the New Year, they’re looking forward to the end of winter and the arrival of spring. Meteņudiena (diena = day) is the day that marks the halfway point between Christmas and Easter, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the spring equinox. The longer Meteņi is celebrated, the better the harvest the following summer. 

Many traditions, rituals, and beliefs are associated with Meteņi. Too many for me to describe here. Each region, district and village has its own rituals and customs.

Like Fat Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day, Meteņi is a time of feasting. A boar’s head with fritters is the traditional main dish for the celebration. Gobble. Eat and drink till you’re sated.

Like all festive days associated with the sun–the spring and autumn equinoxes and the winter and summer solstices meteņi is a fire festival. Bonfires are lit at night to symbolize days growing longer, with more light. People sing and dance around the fires. Straw effigies are rolled down a hill and then set on fire to burn winter away. 

Fire festivals are ancient traditions in many cultures.

 Meteņi is a fertility festival, as are all the fire festivals. Bounty and fertility for people, crops, and animals are vital for agrarian communities.

One fertility ritual is for young brides to be spanked with “switches of life.”

Mumming is a tradition during all winter festivals. It’s kind of like Halloween, except it’s the adults who dress in costumes–fur-lined coats turned inside out, topped off with straw hats and masks. Dressing up in costumes is a fertility ritual for men.  Mummers visit neighboring homesteads where they sing, dance, and play music. The mummers must be feted with food and drink.

Latvians have thousands of folk songs. Some are specific to Meteņi with refrains of repeated words of power. 

Meteņi is the last of the mumming occasions. Once spring arrives folks will be too busy working to go around in costume

An example of Meteņu rituals by the folk group, Auļi. I can watch this video over and over.

6 thoughts on “Meteņi: Good-bye Winter! Hello Spring!”

    1. It that a good wow? Less far back for Latvians. The Balts were the last pagans of Europe. Those are the switches of life. It’s so that she’ll be fertile. Can’t feel much through those thick coats.

      Liked by 1 person

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