Party Pooper Cuts Can't Stop the Celebrations

Latvians are getting ready to party the night away at Riga's traditional Midsummer Eve's 'Jani' Festival, held on 23 June, in an attempt to forget - at least for 24 hours - the economic woes that are sweeping the country.

Far up north, summer days and nights are long - the capital enjoys 18 hours of daylight at midsummer - which hopefully will help lift the gloom caused by the Government's recent action of cutting salaries in the public sector by 20 percent and pensions by 10 percent, in a rearguard effort to save millions from the nation's budget. The tiny Baltic state has been one of the worst hit in Europe by the recession; property prices have plunged 50 percent or more, and all the predictions are that things are going to keep getting worse with the economy expected to contract by around 20 percent.

Yet Latvians are putting a brave face on it all. Jani traditionally is a time when Latvians leave the city and head to the countryside to commune with nature - however increasingly it's become another excuse for a booze up and bonfire lighting in the city. The predictions are though that the hangover will be bad.

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