No one thinks decorating a Christmas tree is unusual nowadays. But you may not know where the idea to hang Christmas ornaments on a tree came from.
Estonia and Latvia have been debating where the Christmas tree originated for many years now. The capital cities of these countries both believe that they started this tradition. The predecessor of a Christmas tree reputedly stood in front of the town hall in Tallinn in Estonia in 1441. A tree was erected in front of the town hall in Riga in Latvia, which is located on Rātslaukums (Town Hall Square), in 1510. There is also a memorial plaque and memorial here stating “Shining eternally”, which depicts a symbolic Christmas tree made from small mirrors. It is immediately clear from the dates who the pioneer of this tradition is, but each city insists on its version. According to experts, this is a sort of legend similar to the story of Santa Claus. Fortunately this is a friendly dispute.
On the other hand Riga is registered as a UNESCO heritage site and it reminds one of a little Prague with its deluxe historic centre. And in spite of the fact that the Christmas holidays are upon us, it is not as busy as it is here. The Christmas tree is lit at the beginning of December, accompanied by carol singing, when the Christmas markets take place on each square. Traditional knitted socks, the famous Riga Black Balsam and deluxe jewellery made from amber in red, green and black, are the most frequent items sold here.
Whatever the legend says, the Christmas tree came to the Czech Republic in 1812. This was no lavish tree erected on Old Town Square, but simply a private act by the Director of Stavov Theatre, Karel Leibich, who had a deluxe Christmas tree erected for his friends at Libeň château. Several decades later this tradition was also assumed by Czech families, who started decorating a tree with gingerbread, fruit and straw ornaments.
You can reach Riga from Prague by direct flight by airBaltic and you only need a valid passport or identification card. The time difference between Prague and Riga is + 1 hour.
You can travel to Václav Havel airport from the centre of Prague by public transport, by metro, or bus. Another option is the express bus from Hlavní nádraží in Prague or by taxi. You can also travel to the airport by car, but you have to pay for parking.
A number 22 bus, or number 241 minibus, will take you from the airport in Riga to the centre of the city. The ticket costs approximately EUR 1, and you will pay EUR 5 for a day ticket.
Winter is usually freezing in Latvia and there are frequent snow calamities. Prices for accommodation, restaurants and transport are similar to those in Prague.