Inner Mind

<< Previous    [1]  2  3  4  5  ...8    Next >>

Always Singing: Eve of Janis

Janits comes again each year, ligo ligo
To look upon his children dear, ligo ligo
Whether they have drank and eaten, ligo ligo
Whether they awaited Janis, ligo ligo

Janis (Yawn-iss) is the now legendary person considered to be the father of the Latvian race. Every year at summer solstice he comes to visit, to see how his people are doing. Latvians celebrate this visit with great enthusiasm, visiting each other, decorating their homes and themselves with leaves and flowers, eating, drinking and singing. There are many songs especially for this occasion, that are recognizable as such by their common chorus of repeated “ligo” (lee-goa). Ligo is a shout of joy as well as incitement to enjoy.

The songs say that anyone who sleeps on this, the shortest night of the year, will sleep away the summer, not getting their work done, but those who honour the occasion by staying up all night and praising Janis will be rewarded with lots of energy to work to bring in a bountiful harvest. This harvest would have been very crucial to their ability to survive the next winter hundreds of years ago, when these traditions originated, when Latvians were a peasant people living off the land in north eastern Europe by the Baltic Sea, where winters are a strong force.

Olga tries to imagine what life would have been like long ago in the country of her parents' birth. For her, living in Toronto in the 1960's as the daughter of immigrant parents, there are neither cows nor shepherds, no farmers plowing fields of hops or grains, no life or death matter in praising Janis and obtaining his blessings. Certainly her parents never stayed awake all night, yet as far as Olga could see, they worked hard and cheerfully and had lots of wonderful things in their lives.

Her father made pickles, sauerkraut and wine. There were always buckets of honey and bushels of wonderful apples in the basement. Olga stuffed herself often, eating her mother's stews along with the dark sourdough rye bread and cottage cheeses. Non the less, Olga's family celebrates Jani with great enthusiasm along with many other Latvians.

Latvians live scattered all over southern Ontario, where ever they were able to find work and make their homes after WWII. Latvian organizations have purchased country properties where Latvians are able to gather, to visit and enjoy celebrations of which the most popular is Jani.

One of these country properties is owned by the Latvian church that Olga's parents participate in. It is a several hundred acre plot of land on the Natawasaga River, near Barrie. The Latvians call it Saulaine (Sau-ligh-neh) which means “sunny place”. This is where Olga, sister Ilze, brother Jekabs (Yeah-cubs), and their parents go each year, on the weekend closest to June 24, that is the calendar date for Jani.

<< Previous    [1]  2  3  4  5  ...8    Next >>