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Traditional Latvian music is often set to traditional poetry called dainas, featuring pre-Christian themes and legends, drone vocal styles and Baltic zithers.

Folk dress in Latvia has played and still plays an important symbolic role in the preservation of national values and cultural heritage and in the creation of a feeling of unity of the people. This occurred in the 1920s and 1930s, when the independent Latvian nation was founded for the first time and interest in folk dress was born; during the years of Soviet occupation; and after the renewal of Latvian independence in 1991. Today folk dress has a different application than in earlier centuries and now it is worn only on festive occasions or during performances. Nevertheless the great amount of interest that Latvians express in folk dress has helped to preserve, research and popularise it.

There are two popular historic periods of specific traditions that characterise Latvian dress: costume of the 7th-13th century that is often referred to as “ancient dress” and clothing worn in the 19th century and referred to as “ethnic” or “ethnographic dress”.

The staples of the diet are rye, wheat, and potatoes. Dairy products are valued for their purity and health-giving qualities. Milk, butter, sour cream, and curd cheese were traditionally highly prized additions to the diet. Pork is the most commonly eaten meat. Smoked fish are particularly popular in Rīga and the coastal areas. A huge variety of bread is available in markets and shops. During the Soviet period the main meal of the day was eaten outside the home in a canteen attached to the workplace or school. The evening meal usually was not cooked and consisted of bread and cheese or sausage and possibly salad. There has been a diversification of foods and eating habits, and pizza and Chinese food have found ready acceptance.

Latvian belongs to the Baltic group of languages. Livonian, a Finno-Ugric language is now almost extinct but is experiencing a revival. By the twelfth century a common language was spoken. Russian has had a strong influence on religious vocabulary, while German has influenced the domestic vocabulary.

Written Latvian bore little relationship to the spoken language until 1638. Spelling followed German orthographic traditions until the foundation of an independent state. Russian linguistic influence is also noticeable.

In the nineteenth century most educated Latvians spoke German. In the second half of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries the educated segments of the population became fluent in Russian. During the Soviet period Russian was a compulsory subject at school. In the post-independence period parents can have their children educated in Latvian or Russian.

Literature in Latvia is currently published in two languages: in the Latvian and Latgalian literary languages. Alongside Latvian language literature works have also been written in German, Russian, Ukrainian and other languages.

The history of Latvian literature ranges over a four hundred year time span. The history of folklore and traditional culture is much older. The period of development of modern Latvian literature began with the emancipation of the people in the second half of the 19th century.

A form of traditional architecture in Latvia is log houses. The position of houses differs between regions. In western Latvia, single farms are more popular and in villages, the houses are positioned in a circle around a central square. In eastern Latvia, villages are more popular and houses are positioned along a main street. This is seen as an influence of nearby Russia.

Approximately 100 different types of sports are developing more or less successfully in small Latvia with its population of just 2.4 million. Among these sports anyone can find one the one that they find the most like-able and appropriate for participating, viewing and being a fan. Moreover, unlike most of Europe, where football followed by other competing types of sports, occupies the top 5in the sports popularity ranking, this hierarchal arrangement in Latvia has the most variable forms. It is both interesting and intriguing.

Commemorations of the Molotov-Ribbentropl Act (23 August) and forced collectivization under Soviet rule (15 June and 25 March) are now days of national mourning.

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