Wordy Wednesday: Jāņi

It’s time for Jāņi! This is probably my favorite Latvian holiday to celebrate. We always make Jāņu siers, šašliks, and other traditional dishes, drink plenty of beer and cider, while staying up late. In past years, I’ve not had to work the following day, but this year I work on both Jāņi and Līgo so I won’t be able to drink too much nor stay up too late. We’ll still enjoy ourselves though. I hope you’ll have a great Jāņi too!

  • ugunskurs : bonfire [slider title=”decline me”]ugunskurs, m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: ugunskurs, ugunskura, ugunskuram, ugunskuru, ar ugunskuru, ugunskurā
    dsk.: ugunskuri, ugunskuru, ugunskuriem, ugunskurus, ar ugunskuriem, ugunskuros [/slider]

    When I think of a bonfire, I think of a huge fire, but an ugunskurs isn’t required to be gigantic. During Jāņi, the countryside will be lit by thousands of ugunskuri all night long (it’s rather short in Latvia!)

  • alus : beer [slider title=”decline me”]alus, m, 3. dekl.
    vsk.: alus, alus, alum, alu, ar alu, alū [/slider]

    One of the so-called “uncountable” nouns like ūdens, alus is generally used in the singular. There is a plural form, but I’m not going to include it here.

  • ķimene : caraway [slider title=”decline me”]ķimene, f, 2. dekl.
    vsk.: ķimene, ķimenes, ķimenei, ķimeni, ar ķimeni, ķimenē
    dsk.: ķimenes, ķimeņu, ķimenēm, ķimenes, ar ķimenēm, ķimenēs [/slider]

    The traditional and required addition to Jāņu siers! Caraway seeds are used in many traditional Latvian dishes. The singular form of the word will generally refer to a single plant while the plural will generally mean the dried seeds. These are not to be confused with cumin seeds!

  • vainags : wreath [slider title=”decline me”]vainags, m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: vainags, vainaga, vainagam, vainagu, ar vainagu, vainagā
    dsk.: vainagi, vainagu, vainagiem, vainagus, ar vainagiem, vainagos [/slider]

    Both men and women wear traditional wreaths for the holiday. Women’s wreaths are made of grasses and flowers while men’s are primarily oak leaves. The vainagi can be quite sizable and everyone gets into the fun. Sometimes men’s wreaths get so big that they will go around their necks!

  • ozols : oak [slider title=”decline me”]ozols, m, 1. dekl.
    vsk.: ozols, ozola, ozolam, ozolu, ar ozolu, ozolā
    dsk.: ozoli, ozolu, ozoliem, ozolus, ar ozoliem, ozolos [/slider]

    I like saying this word, it’s a lot of fun with the way Latvians pronounce their “o”. Oaks are very important culturally and symbolically. Oaks appear everywhere, it seems, from the coat of arms to decorations to fields to symbolic manifestations of masculinity.

  • meija : birch bough [slider title=”decline me”]meija, f, 4. dekl.
    vsk.: meija, meijas, meijai, meiju, ar meiju, meijā
    dsk.: meijas, meiju, meijām, meijas, ar meijām, meijās [/slider]

    This is a bit more obscure of a word. Meija refers to a birch branch with leaves used for decoration. These are rather big branches, quite different from the little leafy bundles of birch twigs used in sauna (a “slota”). These are commonly seen at Jāņi and school graduation ceremonies.

  • meijot : to adorn with birch boughs [slider title=”conjugate me”]meijot, 2. konj.
    tag. meijoju, meijo, meijo, meijojam, meijojat
    pag. meijoju, meijoji, meijoja, meijojām, meijojāt
    nak. meijošu, meijosi, meijos, meijosim, meijosiet / meijosit
    pav. meijo, meijojiet [/slider]

    Since the noun is somewhat obscure, there’s no better time to show the associated obscure verb.

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