Lieldienas (Easter) is a celebration of the arrival of spring and sun, the spring equinox. With the rise of Christianity, Lieldienas was celebrated on the day coinciding with Easter Sunday. As this day signified the start of the farming season, many traditions were be observed in order to bring good health, abundant harvest and prosperity.
Easter morning should start before the sunrise to ensure the alertness for the rest of the year. It should be followed with a wash in a spring that is flowing towards the sun for good health and clear mind. Breakfast would be hard boiled eggs with salt (so you don’t have to lie for the rest of the year), preceded by an egg fight. Whoever has the strongest egg, will live the longest. Egg colouring is the most popular of Easter traditions in Latvia. Eggs are covered in onion peels with addition of grass strands, yarn, blueberry jam, flowers or tree buds for additional pattern. Each individual egg is then wrapped in a cloth or newspaper, secured with a yarn, placed in a large pot and boiled for 15 minutes. Boiled and cooled eggs are rubbed with a bit of butter to create a subtle shine that highlights the patter created by onion peels; no two eggs are the same. Cooked eggs are used for egg fights and egg rolling games.
Egg rolling is a tradition that my family started 10 or so years ago and, to some extent, I have taken with me to Australia. Each participant rolls an egg down a narrow wooden or metal through (we use a rain gutter) leaving the egg where it lands on the ground. If the egg does not touch any other eggs on the ground, participant loses the rolled egg (by leaving it on the ground). If the rolling egg touches another egg on the ground, participant can then claim both eggs as his by removing them from the ground. Winner is the participant with the most eggs.
Another popular tradition is building a large swing and swinging as high as possible. There are a number of reasons offered, e.g., to bring good health to cattle, to ward off evil spirits or to deter mosquitoes. Countless other customs address fertility, health and beauty, cattle rearing and crop farming.