Love Christmas and Halloween? The ancient Latvian Spring waiting holiday of Meteņis or Meteni combines eerie and cheery.
Also called Lastavāgs, Aizgavēnis, Miesmetis, Buduļi Eve, and Pie Day, Metenis includes a masked parade, singing, dancing, feasting and drinking.
A Latvian spirit in charge of growing flax, Metenis was believed to arrive on a sleigh.
Now Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians celebrate by sledding, which they believe will make the flax grow longer.
The faster and longer the sled glides, the faster and higher the flax will grow. Though a ride on a sled, a horse-drawn carriage, or even skating on a pond will do.
You might hear traditional sledding cries:
“My father has tall flax!”
“My father’s is taller!”
“My father’s is taller still, and has a golden button on top!”
Any journey is significant. People used to walk from farm to farm to encourage the flax and (for some reason) throw children over the fence.
Some popular Meteņi traditions are: wearing masks, chasing away Metenis, searching for the button of happiness, driving away moles from gardens and cooking delicious Meteņi porridge.
To drive away Winter, a symbolic dragon, straw dolls and logs are burned. The ashes are spread across the land for a fruitful New Year.
Traditional Masks of Metenis
The most well-known masks are a crane, a bear, hay vāls, butthead, Wolf, Gypsy, the living dead and death.
Meteņi is about people eating and drinking as much as they want. During this time pigs were slaughtered, so the traditional holiday dishes are pig’s head and fritters. Parents throw gifts to their children from a height as if the goddess Laima is raining gifts from the heavens.
The Metenis table is loaded with treats – pea balls, beans, barley porridge, pancakes, smoked pork boiled into a porridge of barley and potatoes, pork head, pork ears and tail and bacon buns.
Round shaped scones symbolise the upcoming spring. Beer used to be specially brewed for the celebrations. Now you can probably enjoy some very nice craft beers.
If you want to celebrate Metenis Day today, be sure to eat pig, wear a mask and go on a journey.
Just remember – the longer Meteņis is celebrated, the better the harvest is expected following summer.
Siobhan is a freelance writer, research addict and lover of twisted history. If you like horrible but amazing history, check out her website www.interesly.com or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/interesly. Or you can reach her through www.siobhanoshea.com.