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Annual traditions

Day of the Star (January 6)

Chalk is consecrated in the church, with which K+M+B is to be written as a protective sign on the doors of the buildings, sometimes adding the year as well. The three letters symbolize the first letters of the three kings’ names (Kaspar, Melchior, Baltazar). In very ancient times, Lietuvēnu crosses were drawn on doors on this day.

If there are many stars on the day of the Star, then a good harvest of apples is expected.

Candle Day (February 2)

On a Candle Day, bring candles to the church to consecrate. Blessed candles were lit at home during thunderstorms, on certain anniversaries, during illnesses, others also lit blessed candles every day. A blessed candle was put in the hands of a dead person. When the parish priest came home, he was met outside with a lit blessed candle.

Before the service, there is a procession around the church with burning candles.

Saint Agatha Day (February 5)

Holy bread, salt and water are consecrated. This bread could be eaten, kept against fire disasters, taken with you in war or on trips. During the fires, Agate’s bread and water were walked three times around the burning building and then thrown into the fire to stop the burning. The salt was eaten. Saint Agatha herself was once tortured by fire.

Meteņi (Carnival)

The spinning works had to be completed by Meteņi. Weaving works are started because it is already light enough outside.

The family rooms had to be thoroughly cleaned.

In Meteņi, people drove to visit relatives in far away villages, because the rivers were still frozen. They took half a pig’s head with them, for a treat.

Young people sledded down the hill and lit fires. The girls had to bring a treat (boiled pig’s feet) with which to pay the boys for the show.

The farmer’s year begins, the year that ends in Mārtiņi.

Ash Wednesday (40 days before Easter)

During the service, the priest sprinkles ashes on the heads of the parishioners with the words Repent and believe in the Gospel or Remember, man, that you are dust and will turn to dust.

Ashes were poured into small sacks and hung on people secretly so that they would not notice it. It was a kind of prank. Boys hung on girls, girls on boys.

After the celebration of Ashes, Lent begins. A cross made of wooden sticks used to be placed on the meat, which meant that it was forbidden to eat meat until Easter.

Ash Day, like Good Friday, is a strict fast. You could only eat once a day. Washed the pots from fat. Didn’t eat meat, milk, or eggs.

This day marked the beginning of the great fast that lasted until Easter. Singing was not allowed during fasting. Boys were not allowed to meet girls.

Passion Sunday (2 weeks before Easter)

Those preparing for baptism on Easter are tested.

In the church, all the crosses with the image of the Savior were covered with a purple cloth.

Saint Joseph’s Day (March 19)

On this day God hears all good wishes and prayers.

In the Land of Suiti it is a big church holiday when everyone had to attend church.

On this day everyone went to Jūrkalne, where it is a big holiday, because it is the title holiday of the church. St. Joseph is the guardian of families. If this holiday fell in the Silent week, it was moved to another date.

Palm Sunday

The Silent week begins with Palm Sunday.

On Passion Sunday, church crosses covered with purple cloth, they were now removed, and the crosses were covered with white cloth. The white cloth was removed after the service on Holy Saturday evening.

Willow-catkins were consecrated in the church. often to them junipers and other herbs were also added. These bouquets were then dried and kept at home for blessing. The following year, with these bouquets, some on Good Friday, others on Easter fumigated the rooms. This was done by putting coals in the pot and putting the dried bouquets on top.

Go in a procession with willow-catkins around the inside of the church.

At least one blessed willow-catkin was to be eaten by each child.

Whoever stood up first, spanked everyone else with willow-catkins for good health.

Silent week

It begins with the Holy Mass of Palm Sunday and ends with the service of the Resurrection of Christ on the evening of Holy Saturday.

People were not allowed to talk loudly and unnecessarily, did not play music, did not sing, refrained from all kinds of fun. They sing in church, but without music.

Green (Maundy) Thursday

Do not bring anything home from the forest. If this was not observed, then the snakes came home. Nothing was brought home on Friday and Sunday either.

On this day, Christ made his disciples priests, entrusting them with two duties: to serve people as he served his disciples and to celebrate the Holy Mass, forgive sins and distribute the Sacraments. Holy Mass is the commemoration of Christ’s Last Supper.

On this day, the Sacrament is transferred to the side (suffering) altar, because Christ is arrested on the night of Maundy Thursday. The altars are revealed by removing the altar covers, the tabernacle doors are opened, the candles are laid down.

Good Friday

On this day, the Sacrament is transferred from the altar of suffering through the Great Altar to the tomb of Christ. At the High Altar, the Monstrance is covered.

On this day, the Holy Mass was not celebrated and the Sacrament was not distributed.

Strict fasting. Neither meat nor milk should be consumed. You should talk very little. Abstains from all things which are pleasant.

In Jūrkalne, in the houses bordering the sea, on this day every adult had to carry nine boxes of sand to the seashore so that the sea would not wash away the shore.

On Good Friday, the cross with the image of Christ, which will be glorified, is uncovered.

Great (Holy) Saturday

On Saturday evening, the Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated, the altars were covered for it, and the bells and the organ began to be played on high in honor of God.

Before the Holy Mass, fire was blessed, then water. The consecrated coals were brought home and thrown into the oven or kept in irons.

After the service, you can already start using dairy products.

Easter Sunday

Easter in Suiti was celebrated for three days: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday.

On Easter morning, it was good to bathe in a spring that flows towards the sun.

During the service, the procession goes around the church three times.

For Easter, sklandrauši (carrot pies) are baked.

Boys made swings and girls paid for the swings with painted eggs.

Eggs were dyed (onion skins, alder skins, moss, rye sprouts) and brought to the church for consecration. It was also possible to consecrate vegetables, fruits, meat dishes, etc. which will be consumed at the Easter meal.

People went from one house to another and competed in beating eggs.

Eggs should be eaten with salt, so as not to lie.

Breakfast was not eaten before the service. After the morning service, the fast ended.

On Easter, the rooms were fumigated with herbs blessed on Palm Sunday.

Bring home the holy water from the church.

On Easter, girls dressed up as brightly as possible.

On Easter, puck hitting resumed (which was stopped in St. Michael’s day (Miķeļi).

In the past, starting with Easter, on the first Sunday of every month until the first Sunday of October, a procession went around the church. They were called Rosary Sundays.

Joreni, Jurģi Day (April 23)

Agricultural labourers changed their employers on this day.

It was day of the Spring Fair in Alšvanga.

Ascension Day (40 days after Easter)

The month of May

Every evening, on weekday evenings and Sundays, after the service, the Monstrance went to St. Mary’s altar and small children scattered flowers. The Litany of the Virgin Mary was recited there at the installed Sacrament.

In the church, special readings about the Mother of God were performed at the altar.

Ūsiņi Day (May 7)

This is the first day when cows are allowed to graze. When people let the cows out, they sprinkled themselves with water and nobody was allowed to stay dry. It was watered so that shepherds do not get bitten and shepherds do not sleep in the pastures.

Everyone went to help release the cattle.

This was the first day of night pasture. A special dish for those going to night pasures – Pentoks was cooked made of five ingredients: flour, egg, meat, potatoes, milk). With an ax handle, a hole was made in the ground and the first spoonful of ready Pentoks was poured into it, or an egg was thrown in as an offering to Ūsiņš. After that, a stone is placed on top of the hole. This is so that Ūsiņš will take care of the herd until Mārtiņi (St. Martin’s Day).

Woolen rags were roasted and the children tied them to the alder trees around the pastures so that the wolves would not come.


On this day Christ establishes the church by sending the Holy Spirit.

On Pentecost there is a procession around the church.

Rooms and porches and the church are decorated with birch trees.

Brewed beer, visited and discussed summer jobs. It was possible to pay a visit without warning.

Feast of the Holy Trinity (next Sunday after Pentecost)

Consecrated children and bouquets of different flowers. They were dried and used for tea. These medicines of the Trinity were placed under the pillow of the dead in the coffin.

Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Thursday after the Feast of the Trinity)

Outside the church, in its four corners, four altars with tables, decorated with small birches, were created. The procession stopped at each table and read its Gospel.

Jāņi, Day of Jānis, St. John’s Day (June 23 and 24)

A couple of weeks before St. John’s Day, people went to the mill to grind malt as well as wheat for white bread and pies and rye for rye bread.

A week before the St. John’s Day, special grass for beddings was cut so that it would be replaced in beddings by St. John’s.

Before St. John’s Day, curds for cheeses and eggs were stored. Cheese was sown in time.

Garlands were already woven throughout the week of Midsummer and stored in cellars. The garlands and wreaths were not thrown out after the holiday, but were kept and around Christmas they were used to make a drink and fed to the livestock. At least one wreath was kept until the following Midsummer, and was burned in the Midsummer bonfire as an offering.

The old fences and rotten stakes were torn down and the old fences were carried to the bonfire place.

On Midsummer’s Eve, a bonfire was lit as the sun went down. The bonfire had to take over the baton from the sun, because it was not allowed to stay dark for a moment. Later, the pūdele (fire raised in some vessel on a stake) was also set. The pole of the pūdele was decorated with a garland.

On Midsummer’s Eve, shepherds had to decorate their cows. The owner had to compensate the shepherds for this.

On Midsummer’s Eve, the owner took a bath, shaved off his beard and walked slowly around the fields alone.

The well and the spring were decorated, the mill was also decorated, the barn door with oak wreaths, the stable door with weeds (thistles, nettles and rowan branches, so that the witch’s eyes were starved. The doors of the rooms were decorated with oaks or lindens, rarely with birch saplings (elsewhere birches used only on Pentecost).

The guests did not come before ten o’clock in the evening. They were welcomed at the farmstead, treated and then everyone went to the place of celebration.

In the place of celebrations, the host and hostess poured the first draft of beer into the fire as an offering. A piece of cheese was also thrown in the past.

Midsummer is a festival of fertility. Midsummer is when people sung a lot. Music was played and people danced a lot until sunrise. There was not much walking from house to house. The guests did not come to the place of celebration on the main road, but somewhere along the bypass roads. Guests came in groups. Previously, everyone knew where to go and had been warned about it.

On Midsummer’s Day, Jānis had a wreath put on and raised three times in the air shouting hurray!. If nobody with a name Jānis was there, they chose the bravest guy. The wreath was always placed on the owner’s head. Anyone who came to visit usually put a wreath on Jānis and the host. In the end, Jānis had crowns on his shoulders (large ones), on his head, and if there was no more space, then also on his hands.

Jānis and the women had wreaths on their heads. Girls wore wreaths made of flowers (especially jasmine), while wives wore wreaths of herbs and linden leaves. A girl could always crown with a wreath her boyfriend.

In the past, men also were given large wreaths, which were pulled over the head on the shoulders, several on top of each other.

At St. John’s Day, baked cottage cheese pies, white bread, and cheese.

On St. John’s Day, people tried to bring in some fresh hay so that the guests would have a place to sleep.

Sometimes the distant relatives did not go home and continued to celebrate until St. Peter’s Day. Bonfires were also lit sometimes for several more evenings.

On June 24, there is an important service in Gudenieki Church, which is the Church of St. John the Baptist. Collective processions of pilgrims to Gudenieki like on the Day of Herbs to Jūrkalne did not take place.

Pēteri or Day of St. Peter

They were called old Johns. It was like a celebration of St. John. Since it was hay time, there was no big celebration. Ate the leftover cheese and drank the rest of the beer. Ate fish.

Around St. Peter’s Day, the nightingale falls silent, the flower season ends and the berry season and the real hay season begins.

If future brides were chosen on St. John’s Day, wedding negotiations were held on St. Peter’s Day.

Feast of Scapular (July 16)

A scapilar is a piece of cloth as a sign that this person is under the protection of Our Lady.

On this day, there is a procession around the church, initiations take place. The day before that, the initiates had their first confession.

After the initiations, the children were taken to the altar of the Virgin Mary and scapulars were placed around their necks or given in their hands.

Jēkopi, Day of St. James (July 25)

The first grain was threshed (just a little) on Jēkopi, ground and baked into a loaf from the first grain, and the lady of the house gave it to the harvesters.

Went to congratulate people with a name Jēkabs and throw in some drinks. There was no big celebration. Jacobs were given a crown from ears of rye.

Annas, Day of Ann (July 26)

They also went to visit Annas. Congratulations on Anna’s name day and the greeters braided a crown for her, which had to be thick. Big parties were not held. Celebrated in the evening after work. There were no other special traditions in Annas.

Māras, Day of Herbs (August 15)

People went on a pilgrimage from Alsunga to Jūrkalni, some on foot, some with carts.

Herbs necessary for health had to be collected until Mara’s Day, because the herbs collected later no longer have the healing power. The traditions of Mara’s Day have been especially important in Jūrkalne, where it is called Day of Herbs.

Mara’s day is also called livestock Sunday, because on this day one of the pets could be brought to the church, where the parish priest would consecrated it.

On this day, the Suiti went to Jūrkalne from further places to consecrate bouquets of herbs, which contained new vegetables and fruits (carrots, branches with apples, onions, and flowers, such as dahlias). Bouquets in Jūrkalne were placed on the window sills in the church for consecration. The consecrated herbs were used for food, given to livestock, kept in special places in every house, also in cupboards. Rooms were fumigated with them on special occasions – when someone died, when cattle were sick, during a thunderstorm. A blessed herb could be given to livestock to drink. Also in Alsunga there was a consecration of herbs on this day.

Miķeļi, Day of St. Michael (September 29)

In three days there were 40 hours of respite, 40 hours of prayer when sins are forgiven. They ended with vespers and a procession.

The biggest holiday in the Land of Suiti is celebrated in Alsunga, because the Alsunga church is dedicated to St. Michael.

In the past, a fair was held near the Raibuļi windmill on the Sunday closest to the Miķeļi.

A fight usually took place at the Miķeļi trade fair, for which preparations had been made in advance. A fair was no fair without a proper fight.

In Miķeļi, all crops had to be under the roof.

The time from Miķeļi to Mārtiņi was a threshing job, which was very hard, especially in the older times.

Month of the Rosary (October 1 to 31)

A rosary was recited every day.

All Saints’ Day (November 1)

Recite the entire holy Litany and sing vespers for the dead. Goes in procession through the church with stops, just like it is done in a cemetery.

Candles are lit in cemeteries and prayers are recited through which forgiveness are obtained for the dead. If you can’t go to the graves, then pray at home. People went to the graves for a whole week to get the blessings.

The dead were prayed for throughout the month of November.

Memorial Day for the Dead (November 2)

Also went in procession around the church with stops. A service is held for the dead.

In ancient times, on this day, special tables were set in gratitude to the ancestral spirits who have contributed to the blessing and prosperity of the home.

On the graves, people covered graves with spruce branches and decorated them, also lit candles (the main burning is on November 1).

Some did not go to the graves after that day until spring, so as not to disturb the peace of the deceased. Others again ignored it.

Mārtiņi, Day of Martins

Martini, so popular in the rest of the country, were not celebrated in the Land of Suiti. This is said to be related to the fact that this is the name of Martin Luther, who apostatized from the Catholic Church and founded the Lutheran Church. Also, children in the Suiti community were very rarely called Mārtiņš for the same reason.

Grain threshing had to be finished until Mārtiņi, and after that flax began to be threshed.


The church year begins with the 1st Sunday of Advent.

Music could only be played during the Advent service. People refrained from fun. Tried not to organize marriages in this time.

The time of waiting for the birth of the Savior. Special Advent songs were sung.


Christmas is a major church holiday, where in earlier times the service (Christmas vigils) lasted all night. No meat was eaten on December 24. You could start eating meat dishes only after coming home in the morning.

From December 24th to 25th, lights were on all night at home. In earlier times, it was a lamp cut out of a potato with sheep fat, later candles and kerosene lamps were also lit.

Christmas was celebrated for three days: December 25, 26 and 27.

The following text, slightly supplemented, is transcribed from J. Šperliņš’s book Suitu kāzas und ķekatas.

In the Land of Suiti (resp. Alsunga, Gudenieki, Basi and Jūrkalne municipal parishes) it was customary to dress up in masks and visit neighbouring farmsteads during Christmas (from Christmas to New Year). It was said to go ķekatās. In the rest of Latvia it was often done outside of this time, but not in Suiti, because Catholics had a quiet time. In later times, ķekatās people only went at Christmas. Did it in the evenings. It was not considered very polite to visit somebody at Christmas without an invitation, but it was OK to visit when going ķekatās. People doing that (ķekatnieks) always had to be welcomed and treated.

Ķekatnieks, or children of ķekatas, as they were called at that time, had to disguise themselves. Dressed up as a bear, goat, horse, crane, starling or any other animal. Often disguised as gypsies. They also took the kokles (string musical instrument) with them, later harmonica and violin. Everything needed for ķekatas was already prepared before Christmas. A ķekatas horse’s head and neck were made from tree stumps. A backbone was made from two sticks: it was covered with a sheet and the horse was ready. There were two people under the sheet guiding the horse in the desired direction and understandably not visible under the sheet. The third person led the horse by the leash, it was the owner of the horse. The ķekatu horse also had a tail and a mane (made from a real horse). Bears and goats were made from uncoated furs. It was also easy to make an imitation crane.

When the ķekateniks have gone to a foreign home, one of them enters the room and starts a conversation with the house mother or the house father. The newcomer asks for a place to stay. Then he says that he has a horse that is also tired and asks if he can be taken into the barn. Finally, the newcomer says that his horse is dancing beautifully and asks the owner for permission to bring the horse into the room. Everyone will then have something to see how well his horse can dance. The owner shakes his head in disbelief and asks him to show his passport. You have to make sure that the stranger is not a fraud or a thief. The newcomer then pulls out a piece of paper from his pocket and hands it to the host. The owner reads it and after reading it admits that the intruder is not a fraud. Allowance is given to bring in the horse.

Bringing the horse into the room makes a noise. The horse snorts, kicks and does not want to enter the premises. Children scream at first, but soon calm down. Finally, however, the ķekatas horse gives in to the whim of its owner and enters the room (the owner leads it on a leash). Well, the pet starts showing all kinds of tricks: kicks, squirms, jumps on its hind legs, runs around the room. If there is a small boy, he is carried on the back of a horse. Small children are not always amenable to it. Finally, the horse is taken to the barn. The owner of the horse then tells the house owner that he has other animals as well. Agree with the host that they should also be shown in the room. The owner of the animals brings in a chained bear, which, having entered the room, somersaults, growls and does all kinds of tricks. A goat and a crane also enter the room. The goat walks around the room and threatens to attack with its horns. The crane walks around the room, cranes its neck and tries to peck each other. Finally, the beasts disappear from the room. The kekatniks drop their masks and the playing and dancing begin. Ķekatu children are treated with beer, white bread, meat and sausages.

There were also such ķekatnieki who did not bring animals with them. These ķekatnieki usually visited several houses in one evening. They came disguised, danced, drank beer and went to other houses without revealing themselves. Since the ķekatas went on Christmas, the songs sung were related to Christmas.

New Year’s eve

On New Year’s Eve, luck was showered and fortune-telling was done. The spilled fortunes were rotated in the candlelight and people tried to predict what was to come in the coming year by looking at the shadows on the wall.