Ziemassvētki (Christmas)

Latvian Christmas decoration - puzurs

Christmas celebrations in Latvia are rich in tradition with a sprinkling of superstition. Although now Christmas has been tamed down to a quiet family celebration, it used to be a three-day celebration coinciding with winter solstice with tables heaving with food and many joyous activities to join.

Just like today, homes were decorated for Christmas: spruce was cut down and brought inside and decorated with gingerbread, small apples, ribbons and candles. Another traditional Christmas decoration is making puzurs. It can be very elaborate (just google for pictures, you won’t be disappointed) when made from reed or straw or quite simple when made from sticks and yarn. Puzurs is hanged in the center of the room so it has space to spin around to capture all evil spirits and bad energy from the house.

Latvian Christmas decorations - puzurs
Latvian Christmas decorations – puzurs

To bring prosperity to the next year, tradition demands at least nine different dishes to be served on Christmas Eve. Typical Christmas dishes are pork roast, sauerkraut, boiled grey peas (so there are no tears in the new year) and broad beans, fish (its scales dried and carried around in the wallet to attract money), white bread and salt (for blessing), beer, bacon buns (pīrāgi) and gingerbread. The festive table would not be cleared for the whole night so that prosperity continues in the new year.

One of the traditional activities was dressing up as all kinds of creatures (budēļi or ķekatas) and dragging a yule log from household to household and then burning it to get rid of the troubles of the year just gone and to speed up the return of the sun.



  1. Irena
    May 23, 2016

    The ‘golden syrup’ ingredient in gingerbread cookies I presume it is a common Aussie product– what is that please and what can we substitute in America?

    1. Liva
      May 29, 2016

      You can substitute golden syrup with light corn syrup or malt syrup.

    2. Jackie Wright
      November 20, 2017

      i live in a small usa town and i was able to find golden syrup in the baking aisle at my local giant grocery. under the name mrs. schlorer’s
      golden table syrup. it was near the maple syrup molasses etc. i am pretty sure my sister gets it from walmart online. good luck

  2. Lori Ielaidnis Wolf
    June 22, 2016

    My Grandmother used dark corn syrup in her cookies.

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  4. Gundega Korsts
    December 7, 2023

    Fish scales for wealth? That goes back to a czarist Russian coin: a round sliver of silver so thin as to be almost translucent. These thin coins easily took on a curve from pocket or purse. Result? They looked like fish scales, and so that was what they were called, colloquially. This lowest possible denomination was most in use among the poor, so it entered folklore as real fish scales to augur wealth in the new year. A hoard discovered (Moscow area) in the early 21st century was largely fish-scale coins.


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