In the centre a woman dressed in the Latvian national costume and holding a bunch of wildflowers and plants traditionally gathered for Midsummer Night is featured against the background of a verse of the Latvian folk song "Blow, Wind". The inscriptions LATVIJAS REPUBLIKA and 2008, each arranged in a semi-circle, are at the top and the bottom on the right, respectively.
In the centre a man dressed in the Latvian national costume and holding a Midsummer Night's wreath of oak leaves is featured against the background of a verse of the song "The Castle of Light". The inscription 1 LATS and the common logo of the "European Heritage", the collector coin programme of the European Union are displayed in a semi-circle at the top on the right.
Inscription DZIESMAI SODIEN LIELA DIENA (a line from the song "Today We Celebrate Song").
The very idea of Latvian statehood began with the folk song and polyphonic singing in marking the passage of seasons. Singing was a source of inspiration. It served as a fortress for battle preparations and a shelter in a moment of despair.
In the summer of 1873, when the procession of the First Latvian National Song Festival moved along the streets of Riga, enlightened Europeans saw the Baltic metropolis as heaven for the landed gentry, paradise for clergymen, goldmine for foreigners and hell for the locals. Now Riga was ringing with an expectation of change.
Self-confidence of Latvians rose like the Castle of Light in a popular song. People rejoicing in Latvian took Riga by surprise. Choirs from far and near flowed to Riga. Men and women with sonorous voices, dressed in homespun costumes, adorned with Midsummer Night's wreaths of oak leaves and holding bunches of wildflowers and plants traditionally gathered for the Midsummer Night's festivities were walking tall. The metropolis, hitherto reverberating with German conservatism and Pan-Slavic aggression, slowly yielded to the charm of choir singing. Riga became the capital city of Song Festivals, today protected by UNESCO as part of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
The fascinating parade of the joint-choir singing, radiating light in Latvia, comes together in Riga with Olympic regularity. This tradition has helped Latvians move from oppression to freedom. No ruler has dared to suppress the Song Festival. At the Festival's gala concert, the folk song "Blow, Wind", the hymn-like manifestation of Latvian self-confidence, has always been sung with the audience joining in, sometimes to spite the hard times and harsh rulers. Light was evoked and celebrated even in the days when the inspirational "The Castle of Light" was not included in the official repertoire.
The Latvian Song Festival has survived like a rare cultural gem, largely untouched by the market economy and popular culture. Latvians have survived through wars and repression, and the spirit of singing has saved the nation again and again. In Latvia whose independence was restored as a result of the Singing Revolution, the miracle of the Song Festival manifests itself in the street procession of tens of thousands of participants, the "wars of songs" and whirls of dances lasting for days, and in joyful nights spent singing and dancing offstage. The Song Festival tends to move people to tears and makes them contemplate eternal values.