September 1, 2023

Past and Present


A quick trip back to the past, visiting a beautiful cemetery in a tiny village. It's where my grandmother's grandparents have been laid to rest. It's also next door to our country house—a place I've spent every summer growing up.

Latvians have a deeply rooted tradition of paying their respects to their deceased family members, in the form of annual, commemorative, gravesite ceremonies. Known as kapu svētki in Latvian, these memorial events take place on Sundays during the summer months, from June until the end of August.

During the days that precede each kapu svētki, the relatives of the deceased clean up and tidy the cemetery grounds. The footpaths are raked, the gravestones are washed and flowers are placed at each gravesite.

On the day of the commemorative event, the cemetery is abuzz with activity. Christian pastors of all denominations may be present to lead prayers for the departed. This is the time when close and distant relatives assemble from far and wide in their best Sunday dress.

It is a time to meet again every year and to renew family ties. After paying their respects at the gravesites of their loved ones, the members of each family hold a lunch or dinner in tribute of their departed relatives.


For us, it was just a regular Saturday, but still—all gravestones were neat, flowers fresh, sand raked, and birds chirped in the trees.