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In ancient Latvia, Ziemassvetki was a festival, celebrated on December 23, which was one of the two most important holidays, the other being Jani. Ziemassvetki celebrated the birth of Dievs, the highest god of Latvian mythology.

The two weeks before Ziemassvetki are called Zveru laiks, the "season of animals."

During the festival, candles are lit for Dievs and Martins and a fire is kept burning until the end, when its extinguising signals an end to the unhappiness of the previous year. During the ensuing feast, a space at the table is reserved for Dievs, who was said to arrive on a sleigh. during the feast, certain foods were always eaten: bread, beans, peas, beer, pork and pig snout and feet. Carolers (Kaladnieces) went door to door singing songs and eating from many different houses.