Livonian Heritage Day

On the first Sunday after the Spring Equinox, which this year falls on March 24th, Livonian Heritage Day will be celebrated for the first time in the regions historically inhabited by the Livonians.

The Livonians are one of Latvia’s treasures – its other indigenous nation and ancient inhabitants who maintained their unique language and culture up to the present day. Livonian heritage, however, extends considerably deeper and broader. The Livonians once inhabited nearly one-third of Latvia’s territory and over the millennia have had considerable influence in the development of the Latvian language, Latvia’s nations and their identities, the Latvian state and its symbols.

Latvia’s Livonian roots are deeply interwoven with Latvia as a whole, though especially in those regions where the Livonians once lived. This is revealed by language, especially in the Livonic dialect of Latvian, which developed in the regions where Livonian was historically spoken, but also place names, ancient castle mounds, sacred sites, and traditions.

The Livonian Heritage Day is a tradition with the intent of symbolically recognising and honouring the Livonian roots of Latvia’s regions. On this day we propose that regions decorate local places of significance especially those associated with the Livonians with Livonian green-white-blue flags or colours. Likewise, we invite everyone to participate in the Livonian spring bird waking ritual, the roots of which are found in antiquity and which will also take place in many locations across Latvia this year.

Bird waking is an ancient tradition specifically characteristic of the Livonians. It is associated with the Finnic (Livonian, Estonian, Finnish, Karelian, etc.) mythical view that the world arose from the egg of a water bird, which is the reason that designs incorporating birds are found on ancient jewellery, for example, the widely known so-called “Livonian birds” – pendants found in archaeological materials recovered from areas once inhabited by the Livonians. Birds can also be seen on rock paintings in Karelia, Finland, and elsewhere. Bird waking, which marks the beginning of the year for the Livonians and the reawakening of all life, is an echo of this ancient myth. The Livonian myth is grounded in the traditional view that migratory birds do not leave in the fall but spend the winter at the bottom or along the shore of the sea, rivers, or lakes, and that in the spring they have to be awoken. A more in-depth description as well as the words and melody of the song can be found in
Baiba Šuvcāne’s article, while the tradition is explored in the linked video.

We invite everyone to participate in Livonian Heritage Day events and to tell us about places where bird waking events are planned or where Livonian colours are displayed so that we can add them to the map of events.