Although we regard ourselves as a nation of introverts, Latvians do great things in big crowds. Look at our Song Festivals, with 20,000 singers on stage at the same time.
There was a lot of togetherness during the National Awakening of the late 1980s, too. Demonstrations with which half a million participants peacefully called for an end to Soviet rule. On 23 August 1989, 2 million people joined hands from Tallinn to Riga and on to Vilnius in the Baltic Way, an act of solidarity which continues to inspire liberation movements today.
And on 4 May 1990, after Latvia’s Supreme Council passed a declaration restoring Latvia’s independence, thousands gathered in the narrow streets around the Parliament in Old Riga, crying and singing and lifting the deputies onto their shoulders.
Thanks to the coronavirus crisis, the streets of the capital are much emptier this year. It’s a tough time for many, as emergency measures have caused businesses to close and restricted social contacts, especially for the elderly. Still, due to the sensible response of the government and the people, Latvia has one of the lowest infection rates in the world, and isolation rules are softer than many other places.
And we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of our country’s birthday (actually the second one, after the first Declaration of Independence on 18 November 1918) in a united spirit.
On the official side, Speaker Ināra Mūrnniece will make a festive address to the Saeima, with the parliamentarians spread out around the building for social distancing. President Egils Levits will address the nation, an especially moving event as he was the author of the independence declaration in 1990.
To delve deeper into recent history, the Popular Front Museum of Latvia has made a Google map for a walking tour around Riga, with information about major sites connected with the struggle for independence. It will be available on the museum’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/lnvmtautasfrontesmuzejs/) from 3 May.
To patriotically chill out, the National Film Centre of Latvia is hosting a marathon of Latvian movies on the portal filmas.lv. Music lover can savour a concert by organ maestro Vita Kalnciema broadcast live from Riga’s Dome Cathedral
Eating is central to our culture, and across Latvia people celebrate 4 May by dining with a white tablecloth. Although these gatherings will have to be small this year, there will be lots of shared images of elegant, richly stocked tables.
And if the weather is warm, we will enjoy our cold beet soup, birch tree juice and shashlik al fresco. The gardening season is in full swing, with tulips and daffodils blooming and folks getting their greenhouses ready for the tomatoes and cucumbers. The perfect setting for this nature loving nation to drink a toast to freedom.