The Story behind Latvian Mittens


Sample of Latvian mittens

Latvia has a long tradition involving mittens. That's not surprising knowing that winters are so cold here. Everyone knitted mittens here in times past - granddads, grandmas, dad, mothers and children. What else did Dad have to do on long, dark winter evenings? Mittens are part of Latvia's culture. 

Mittens at a farmer's market booth

Mittens are especially part of the wedding culture. Brides-to-be had to have 100 or more pairs of mittens knitted for her wedding hope chest. She handed out mittens to her father-in-law, mother-in-law, cousins, aunts, uncles, bridesmaids, cooks of the wedding supper, bakers and anyone else involved with planning the wedding. 

Also included were the farm animals in the barn. Mittens were given to cows, sheep and horses. Of course, those mittens were gathered back up after the wedding celebration. I'm not sure if that tradition continues today. 

Mittens from District of Kurzeme
The interesting thing is that every county in Latvia has its own pattern of mitten associated with that area. An experienced knitter can tell where you come from if she sees your mittens. Of course, people don't always knit the same pattern every pair. 

Historically, the basic pattern of the mittens were taken from symbols of the deities and gods that the ancient Latvian people honored. Over the years these traditional patterns became connected with the different regions of Latvia. Today each region has its own traditions, styles, symbols and even colors. 

I especially like the colorful mittens from the Kurzeme region as seen above. The bright colored yarn and bold patterns of the rosetta-type suns with small cuffs are unique to the region. 

I'm sure knitters and people who have studied Latvian mittens know much more about this topic than I do, but I find it very interesting.  


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