Latvia in Mittens

As the days grow colder and mitten season approaches, the Ministry of Culture’s Office Latvia 100 and the mitten makers of Latvia invite one and all to participate in the Latvia in Mittens campaign. In celebration of the Latvian State Centenary give your friends and family one of the most ancient symbols of Latvian culture—colourful mittens in traditional patterns, so you can celebrate November 18th in style and with warm hands.

On November 18th, everyone is invited to wear mittens while attending ceremonies or honouring Latvia with a circle of friends.

Give mittens to your friends and relatives, to your business partners and foreign guests, as a symbol of this important occasion—mittens are not only warm and practical, they are also symbolic and beautiful as the colours of Latvian nature and ancient symbols are knitted into the patterns. The Latvian Centenary is an excellent reason to look through your mother’s dowry, make a kind request of your grandmother, or find knowledgeable craftspeople to knit you a pair of mittens.

Beloved Latvian author and poet Imants Ziedonis wrote: “Latvians go out in to the world wearing patterned mittens and throw them into the treasure chest of cultures along with Persian rugs, Indian and Japanese silks, Chinese porcelain, and Russian woodcuts...”

Latvian mittens are a timeless classic—they also tell the history of Latvia because they have been used in battle by Latvian Riflemen, have travelled to Siberia in exile, and are still used here in Latvia. The patterns and colour combinations of Latvian mittens are endless, but each region of Latvia has its characteristic colours: in Kurzeme—white, grey, red and violet; in Latgale—red, yellow, green and white; in Vidzeme—white, grey, and light brown or green; and, in Zemgale—variations of green and brown tones.

Rich traditions of knitting, wearing, and giving the gift of mittens has developed in Latvia over the course of many centuries. The mitten is not only a common household item, but also a ritual object Latvians give to one another in celebration of life’s most meaningful events—baptisms, weddings, and funerals; as a show of good will; and to symbolise that an agreement has been made. For centuries, master-knitters have encoded the ancient knowledge of our ancestors into their mittens by knitting symbols of power—the Sun, one of the many Latvian Cross symbols, the Morning Star, the Serpent. Mittens not only provided the wearer with warmth and beauty, but also gave protection. Many other symbols, such as “pigs’ eyes”, “nut clusters”, “bees’ wings”, “crows’ feet”, and “hawks’ claws”, were also knitted into these patterns.

The popularity of Latvian mittens has inspired the mitten knitting, giving and wearing campaign Latvia in Mittens. Specialists from the Latvian knitwear boutique Tīnes, the national folk costume centre Senā klēts, and the wool and knitting shop Hobbywool can help you choose a pair of mittens or knit some for yourself!

To learn more about the beautiful variety of Latvian mitten patterns and create your own pattern at the Latvian Centenary Information Centre at the Latvian National Library.

The 100th anniversary of the Proclamation of the Republic of Latvia will be celebrated in Riga, throughout Latvia, and around the world on November 18th, 2018 with a wide programme of events. Wear a pair of beautiful Latvian mittens, send warm greetings to your friends, and post on social media using the hashtag #LV100. 

 

// "Latvia in Mittens" visuals inspired by artwork "Liked Values" (2017) by Baiba Vaivade. Artwork was displayed in Latvian Centenery exhibition "ORIGINS/Textile as Concept and as a Material Aspect of Latvian Identity" //

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