With the First Advent Sunday of December on December 1, residents of Riga and visitors alike will be able to appreciate how the city is gearing up for the upcoming Christmas this year.
The city’s main Christmas tree was lit on Dome Square, and more than 4,200 light decorations will shine on the Latvin capital’s streets, bridges and parks. The Rīga Christmas market – widely acclaimed as one of the best and best-value christmas markets in Europe – will also open, which will, as usual, create a festive atmosphere at Dome Square and the secondary market located at the Esplanade near the Orthodox cathedral. There will also be markets in Agenskalns, and the Kalnciems quarter on the Pardaugava side of the river.
According to Rīga city council officials, the cost of decorating the city for the festive season is €290,000, spread over 74 spaces, trees and pillars, with a total of 4,256 decorations above the streets, with an additional 2020 strings of lights on the trees.
There will also be a special tenth anniversary edition of the Christmas Tree Trail which takes people to festive firs, real and artificial, artistic and abstract, at various locations around the city.
And of course there is the annual tradition of debating at some length whether Tallinn or Rīga had the first proper Christmas tree, a subject so well-worn we won’t risk spoiling the season of goodwill by repeating the claims and counter-claims and will simply refer you to our previous stories on the subject. But obviously it’s Rīga.
Away from the public displays of Christmas spirit, the State Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD) is repeating its advice to homeowners to be careful of fire risks when putting up decorations and lighting advent wreaths. They are also urging people to check that their smoke detectors are in good working order.
Last year, firefighters extinguished 26 fires that were likely caused by a candle burning in an Advent wreath or a Christmas tree, or by a burning candle left unattended. By the end of November this year, 11 such fires have been registered, most likely due to candles left unattended. Every year people are affected by such fires – last year three people died in these circumstances.
“Most Advent wreaths are made of flammable materials and, like indoor Christmas trees, light up easily. Therefore, careful consideration should be given to where and how to safely place the Advent wreath, Christmas tree and other Christmas decorations, and not to leave unlit candles,” said the VUGD.
“If a classic Advent wreath is used, stable and non-flammable candle holders should be placed and only candles can be placed on them. The candle should never be placed next to fabrics, furniture or curtains and should not be left in an area where small children and pets have easy access. It is best to place it on a stable and non-flammable surface.
“The VUGD also reminds the public that candles and wreaths should not be placed on televisions, radiators, lighted stoves or fireplaces or near the glass, as it may break when exposed to heat. Do not leave burning candles unattended, not even briefly, and when leaving or before going to bed, make sure the candles are extinguished.”