WHILE THE POPE'S NOT WATCHING. Blasphemous things to do on the "Papal Holiday".

It's not a secret Latvians love enjoying official holidays. Along with regular national celebrations we even take, for example, a two-day-and-night break during Midsummer to try out naughty things the Pagan way.
But this year put us on TOP list as the third most holiday-ee country in EU1. You might ask - is it because of the Centenary? Or, because of Latvians finally celebrating potatoes? Nope. It is because, when The Pope decided to pay his first visit in 25 years on 24 September, the parliament voted - one extra public holiday wouldn't hurt. And something went wrong.
capital riga, pope francis, pope holiday latvia, pope cartoon, 2018
Although many think Francis as the Pope has been the most liberal of all so far, and has been, sort of, positively neutral on homosexual couples, or women's rights for abortion (while the Catholic world is even sometimes left confused how can a Pope be this liberal), the Christian touch in many cases seems not to fit the worldview of many Latvians.

After Pew Research Center published their review in 2015 on 150 countries, the world found out Latvians rank TOP 8 among those with no religious belief. The research stated that almost 44 % name themselves completely non-believers2. Then from the rest roughly 20 % believe in a higher power, but "He, She, It doesn't live in a church", and only 20 % did announce themselves as Lutherans, while 10 % were Catholics and Orthodox each3.

The percentage might not be low still, yet the overall loss of interest in religion is related to more than a half of population and it's growing. Many, who represent themselves as Lutherans, for example, usually visit a church luckily twice a life - when getting married (or someone's getting married) and when fucking up something (or when something gets fucked up). Then God seems the first listener and also - the easiest solution.

Even the Constitution determines the separation of State from Church4. Meanwhile 68 out of 100 seats in parliament voted for the "Papal holiday" to be in power on 24 September. Important to mention - vast majority of votes came from pro-right oldschool or pro-nationalistic party members.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Economics announced the status of this holiday should've been decided by business sector rather than parliamentarians and, eventually, this one day-off will cause the country's economy at least 8 million euro loss5
Let's make it more fun and add extra - 806 000 euro that have been assigned from the taxpayers' budget to renovation of Aglona basilica, where Pope Francis will celebrate Holy Mass, and -233 000 euro from Rīga City Council (most likely derived from taxpayers' money, too) for readjustment of the St. Jacob's and St. Mary Magdelene's churches, and other technical expenses. That is 9 million Erics, folks, for one white hat.

Although the Ministry of Justice (who ironically organize the expenses) announced there are roughly half a million people in Latvia supporting the Catholic denomination6 (presumably one third of the nation's electorate), in result, there have been only 32 000 people registered for the Holy Mass - more than 50 % are from the small far-South-East province of Latvia, where Aglona basilica is located and where the biggest concentration of Catholics is in the country per se.

On the other hand, only a bit more than 900 participants are from other countries7. Important to mention that the same amount of people as for the Holy Mass gathers yearly for a pop music festival Positivus, while the most popular local band "Brainstorm" gathered 60 000 people on their tour-closing gig this Summer. The last visit by Pope John Paul II was paid in 1993 when there were, some say, 150 000 people gathering - you can see what 25 years of freedom have done to us and Christianity. At the same time His Holiness Dalailama keeps on coming almost annually, people pay for his visit, and the business is running without any support from public institutions.

The society is into two pieces - the first condemn the deeds by Catholic, Orthodox and Christian congregation in general as artificial, confining, egoistic and double-faced globally (especially to paedophilia trials that happened in USA this Summer and just took Europe by surprise in Germany7). Such "Papal holiday" is evaluated as an unnecessary event for a miniature dose of people compared to the whole country (that's basically secular), while the rest, who are interested in the Pope's visit, will most likely watch his evening sermon via telly anyway.

Religious belief is what's been considered as a personal measurement here, there is nothing wrong with it, yet it should not dominate a national tune. What if your personal belief is rock music, why did the day of Red Hot Chilli Peppers' concert last year wasn't a holiday, if it gathered 30 000 listeners + let's count the ones who couldn't come? We are exaggerating, of course, but you got the absurd of this situation.

On the contrary, the second part of society suggests that all development and improvement in the world is thanks to Christianity moving and protecting people's sanity. That the Pope is simply a great spiritual leader, and the worldview of European people is rooted in 10 commandments that, even if you are not religious, are true, honourable and stronger than life. Eventually, it is hard to deny the overall kindness Christianity can share if used the properly and with respectful measurement.


What happens, is that CAPITAL R is not gonna waste a good day off anyways, and, to celebrate the "Papal Holiday" the real Latvian common way, we have prepared our own list of 10 alternative commandments = blasphemous suggestions how to enjoy yourself during this specific public holiday the most secular contemporary way possible:
  1. Hit the nudist beach one last time this Indian Summer. Our favourite is Vecāķi nūdistu pludmale.
  2. On this exact Monday the wonderful art-house cinema "Kino Bize" will show a special one-time-only screening of "Baltu Ciltis" - a great documentary on Baltic pagan tribes, telling a story about the time before we knew Christianity or the Missionary position.
  3. Visit "Dubulti" train station in Jūrmala for "RIBOCA" Riga Art Biennial free-of-charge exhibition (open until the end of September). On the "Pope Holiday" we particularly suggest trying out Anne Duk Hee Jordan's video booth "Ziggy and the Starfish". Sassy.
  4. Visit "Mr. Page" and ask for a book on LGBT rights history in Latvia (you can sadly only browse it on spot and it's in Latvian, yet ask salesperson for more info).
  5. Try possibly the best RAMEN in your life only this Monday at Stockpot. For the sake of the holy sin, the gluttony, and our Asian non-Christian-Buddist-influenced friends - try two.
  6. Visit Republika, an alternative music venue, for some freedom reggae, dub, and punk music from Poland - Paprika Korps are playing in Rīga!
  7. Although its in Latvian, we simply couldn't ignore "Sieviešu Stendaps" or Women stand-up taking place exactly during the Pope's visit. Because it's as liberating, blasphemous, empowering and sarcastic as needed. And because the Pope didn't invite the girls to his welcoming sermon :(
  8. Try out the famous "Baltic Pearl" - a film forum screening all the most awarded films of the last year. On Monday - a perfect combination of dance, lust, rave, drugs, sex and blasphemy in Gaspar Noé's "Climax" (only in French with Latvian subs). The name speaks for itself.
  9. Don't deny it like you never wanted it - try a Latvian sausage.
  10. Finally, get high by climbing up "Bumbukalniņš" or "Ball Hill" - the best watching tower in the middle of a forest in Rīga with the best name there is for this list.
No more info. Wake up, go out, feel free to make your own reasonable decisions.

1 Oficiālo svētku brīvdienu skaits Latvijā šogad trešais lielākais starp ES valstīm. LSM.LV
2 Pētījums: Latvijā viens no augstākajiem nevienai reliģijai nepiederošo īpatsvars. LSM.LV
3 Ticība Dievam, %. Lietišķā Diena.
4 Latvijas Republikas Satversme.
5 Pāvesta vizītes laikā Latvijā būs brīvdiena. LSM.LV
6 Pāvesta Franciska vizītes nodrošināšanai piešķir 806 202 eiro. Diena.lv
6 Pāvesta Franciska dievkalpojumam Aglonā reģistrējušies 31 902 cilvēki. Delfi.lv
7 German Catholic priests "abused thousands of children". BBC.co.uk