On May 4th, opening day of the Latvian Centenary Celebrations, the power of the human spirit and the strength in our hands will come together for Embrace Latvia, a unique campaign to plant oak trees around the Latvian border. We will also honour the courageous statesmen who united the Latvian people on the road to an independent state by gathering together for White Tablecloth Celebrations in Latvia and around the world.
"Celebrating this country’s Centenary is a unique opportunity that has been given to our generation. I ask you not to stand on the sidelines, but to actively participate, enjoy the opportunities provided by the Centenary, and initiate some ideas of your own! We will begin the celebrations already on May 4th, when I invite everyone to participate in Embrace Latvia—a campaign created to guard the spirit of Latvia, and to gather friends and relatives around a white-clad table to celebrate our freedom”, urged Latvian Minister of Culture Dace Melbārde.
The Centenary Celebrations will begin early in the morning of May 4th at Latvia’s farthest points to the North, South, East, and West in Ipiķi, Demene, Pasiena, and Nīca respectively, and will continue throughout the day with diverse and exciting events. Centenary Oaks will be planted in Nīca and Liepāja, and the celebrations will be opened by patron of the Latvian Centenary, President of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis.
“I am gratified, that the campaign Embrace Latvia, advanced by the Ministry of the Interior, will inaugurate the Centenary Celebrations and affirm feelings of unity and belonging in our nation. The Oak has long been a symbol of strength and endurance, and through this campaign we will once again affirm that the security of Latvia is important to its people”, emphasised Minister of the Interior Rihards Kozlovskis.
During the Embrace Latvia campaign, one hundred oak trees with special Centenary markings will be planted in a particular order in all 45 municipalities located along the Latvian border beginning at 9.00 a.m. In this way the contours of Latvia will be symbolically accentuated, as will the unity we attained thanks to the decision of the First Latgalian Congress, which took place one hundred years ago. The celebrations will continue throughout the day, engaging a great many people in various events. “Let the oaks embrace and encircle Latvia. Let them stand guard. Let us plant these oaks so they can send their roots not only into the soil, but also into our hearts”, said poet Māra Zālīte as she invited people to participate in the Embrace Latvia campaign.
In preparation for this campaign, the great sense of responsibility taken on by the municipal authorities and local residents can be felt in the way they went about choosing the symbolic planting sites for the Centenary Oaks and considered their growing conditions. The Oak is a symbol for new beginnings and continuity, which is why many municipalities are planning the develop and maintain these sites for the enjoyment of the people. For example, the municipality of Gramzda in the Priekule region has planned a special Centenary project to develop the territory around its Centenary Oak and create a symbolic gateway to Latvia. Oak planting sites will be similarly developed in the municipality of Vilce in the Jelgava region, as well as in Saulkrasti and Vaiņode. Significant historical sites will be highlighted in a number of territories. In the municipality of Ezere in the Saldus region, a park of deciduous trees will be planted on the site where the first Boy Scout Garden was established in 1935; and in the region of Limbaži, a Centenary Oak will be planted in the birthplace of Kārlis Baumanis, composer and author of the lyrics to the Latvian Hymn. In several places the planting will take place in cooperation with our neighbouring countries—Lithuanian groups will join in the planting at Rundāle and Priekule, Estonains will participate in Ainaži and Rūjiena, and Belarusians will join the festivities in Krāslava.
The Centenary Oaks will be planted by distinguished members of Latvian society
Representatives of the Creative Advisory Board for the Latvian Centenary will participate in planting the Centenary Oaks, and walk the routes planned from Latvia’s most distant points at each of the four directions: director Dāvis Sīmanis, Vita Jaunzeme, project manager for the Big Clean-up, political scientist Ivars Ijābs, poet Daina Sirma, and public participation specialist Madara Ūlande. A positive energy boost will be provided by some of Latvia’s most outstanding athletes: in Rīga—skeleton bobsled riders Mārtiņš and Tomass Dukurss, in Ludza—bobsled rider Oskars Melbārdis, in Jūrmala—beach volleyball player Aleksandrs Samoilovs, and many others. A map of the oak planting sites and other events that are part of the Embrace Latvia campaign can be found on the website ApskaujLatviju.LV100.lv.
These events are being organised by the Ministry of the Interior in cooperation with the Latvian Centenary Bureau, Latvia’s municipal governments, the Latvian Scouts, and the Latvian Youth Guard, who will take on the responsibility of caring for the oaks. All in all, more than 2000 people have already joined in the preparations for the campaign.
White Tablecloth Celebration
Also on May 4th, inauguration day of the Latvian Centenary Celebrations, people in Latvia and around the world will be celebrating White Tablecloth Day. White Tablecloth Day is a new tradition, initiated by the Latvian Centenary Bureau last year, to celebrate Latvia’s second birthday and to remember May 4th, 1990, when the Supreme Council of the Latvian SSR adopted the resolution declaring the renewed independence of the Latvian State—that decision renewed our sovereignty. That was the day we chose freedom, we said YES to the books we want on our bookshelves, YES to communicating with our friends from around the world, YES to freedom of information, initiative, and genuine participation.
Everyone is invited to create their own White Tablecloth Celebrations—with family, community, friends, or colleagues—to lay the table together and celebrate our freedom. On this day the white tablecloth is a symbol of self-confidence and pride, and the essence of the celebration is to be together and to communicate. You might want to sing or dance together, watch a film, do poetry and prose readings, celebrate significant events in your neighbourhood, and honour the special people and old traditions that emphasise our non-material cultural heritage and Latvian culinary traditions.
White Tablecloth Celebrations will take place in a number of venues around the capital, including the Latvian National Library—where a Centenary oak will also be planted, the Esplanade Park, and in the linden alley near the Cabinet of Ministers. There will be poetry-reading in soft beanbag chairs, a silkscreen workshop, and dance performances along Brīvības Boulevard. And people will be invited to create works of art or participate in an ice cream social at the Esplanade.
More than one hundred White Tablecloth Celebrations have been declared in Latvia and around the world. Everyone is invited to add their White Tablecloth Celebration venues to the digital platform for the Latvian Centenary at www.lv100.lv. Celebration venues include: a three-day European Latvian camp On the Path to the White Tablecloth Celebration in Milan, Italy that will culminate in songs sung and stories told by camp participants sitting around a table covered in a white cloth. They will be joined by the Luxemburg Children’s Folklore ensemble ‘Mazās Dzērves’ or ‘Little Cranes’, who will lead them in an evening of music and performances. And, just like last year, Teika resident Gunta Tabore will invite her neighbours from the apartment building where she lives to a local White Tablecloth Celebration. Estonian shipping line Tallink will invite passengers on the cruise ferry Romantika to a special White Tablecloth brunch. Distinguished Salaspils personalities—poet Knuts Skujenieks, historian Jānis Šiliņš, and others—invite residents and visitors to a conversation at the Rīgava Garden of Music and Arts at the Salaspils Cultural Centre. All interested parties are invited to a guided excursion around Mārupe and to visit their book exchange point. The diverse celebration program in Pļaviņas will be complemented by the exhibit „Dzimtas stāsts Baltajā galdautā” or “The story of a Family at the White Tablecloth”. Many of the participating municipalities are organising White Tablecloth Celebrations after the Oak Planting Ceremonies.