Lieldienas (Easter)

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.

Easter eggs onion peel

Easter eggs coloured with onion peels | latvianeats.com

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.

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7 Responses

  1. Mark says:

    Thank you for this lovely website. As i read thru the various Latvian dishes, it puts a smile on my face as i too am Latvian and have eaten 90% of these foods my whole life. I have a quick question though. In the Lieldienas section you have a beautiful photo of Easter eggs that are brown AND BLUE! The brown ones are similar to the ones I and most other Latvians make every year but i had never seen blue ones. They are beautiful! May i ask how you did it? You mentioned blueberry jam but how did u use it? What i am most surprised by is the fact that the blue and brown stayed seperate. I would have thought that blueberry jam would make all of the water blue and mixed with brown would result in a drab grayish color. Did u put the jam on the eggs along with the onion skins before wrapping them in the cloth? Seems like bleeding would still happen… Or did u do something with the jam AFTER you cooked the eggs? Its a mystery to me but one that i would love to have solved as i am just about to start my egg coloring.(Easter is tomorrow!) Any info would be greatly appreciated! Mīļš paldies un Priecīgas Lieldienas!

    • Liva says:

      To get the blue on the eggs put a little bit of blueberry or bilberry jam on the egg (not covering the whole egg), then add some onion peel, wrap tightly in a cotton cloth and secure with a yarn. I suppose it would work also with fresh berries, but they are not in the season yet. It works best with white eggs.
      Thank you for the kind words, much more to come content wise, time is the only constraint!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Another way to get blue colored eggs – wrap the egg in shredded red cabbage leaves. Boil the eggs for 12 minutes and then plunge into ice water. Return the eggs to the pan of cabbage water to soak overnight. Unwrap 6-8 hours later.

  3. ilze says:

    Another way to get blue colored eggs – wrap the egg in shredded red cabbage leaves. Boil the eggs for 12 minutes and then plunge into ice water. Return the eggs to the pan of cabbage water to soak overnight. Unwrap 6-8 hours later.

  4. Imants M, Svans says:

    How do you get the blue color eggs?

    • Liva says:

      To get the blue on the eggs put a little bit of blueberry or bilberry jam on the egg (not covering the whole egg), then add some onion peel, wrap tightly in a cotton cloth and secure with a yarn. I suppose it would work also with fresh berries, but they are not in the season yet. It works best with white eggs.

  5. Cindy Celins-Hutchinson says:

    I would also like to thank you for creating this website. Both of my parents fled with their families during WWII. My Mom and her twin sister made these recipes often. They are gone, but the Latvian food traditions must live on! Paldies for taking me down memory lane.

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