As we approach the end of the year, now is the right time to begin preparing for Christmas celebrations – one of most beloved holidays worldwide. Christmas would definitely not be Christmas without gingerbread, Christmas carols and Christmas tree - near universal symbol of this seasonal celebration. But did you know that decorating the Christmas tree may have its origin in Latvia?
In some accounts, it all began more than 500 years ago. One of legends says that the first Christmas tree was put up by medieval Brotherhood of Blackheads, the guild uniting Riga’s merchants and craftsmen, and decorated in Riga, capital city of Latvia, in 1510, writes Melngalvju Nams. It was decorated with anything that came to hand – nuts, apples, dried berries, flowers, ribbons, toys handmade ornaments and then nicely displayed at the central market square (today Riga Town Hall Square) nearby the Blackheads’ House. Meanwhile, another story reveals that the tree was decorated with paper flowers and set on fire by the Blackheads at the end of the holiday season; most probably, as it was believed to bring good luck, according to firstchristmastree.com.
Today a commemorative plaque marks the approximate spot on the Riga Town Hall Square where guildsmen placed a decorated tree.
Every year a giant, evergreen fir- tree carefully chosen by a mayor of Riga City has been erected at this legendary site to continue the tradition in full glory every Christmas.
In honour of the birthplace of the Christmas tree tradition, each year Riga becomes the Christmas tree capital of the world – where many different and creative art objects are set-up in Riga. These modern-day Christmas tree surprises with their originality, as well as the variety of materials used, from light installations, to wood, glass, bricks and the use of warmth. The exposition includes the best works by artists, students of the Art Academy as well as other creative professionals, stated by liveRiga.
No matter of easy access to alternative Christmas trees, today Latvians still prefer having evergreen fir-trees growing in pots or cutting them themselves out in the woods just before Christmas Eve. As a Christmas tree is a big deal in Latvia, JSC Latvia’s State Forests allows Latvian residents to head out into state forests and cut a tree (one per a household) to be taken it home with scent of forest and often decorated with candles, handmade ornaments from straw or other natural materials altogether with family - another joyful Christmas ritual.