RIGA, July 1 (Xinhua) -- The week of Latvia's nationwide song and dance festival kicked off in Riga on Sunday with a magnificent procession of the festival's participants and a ceremony paying tribute to chief conductors and directors.
Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis, who addressed participants of the XXVI Latvian Song and XVI Dance Celebration dressed in a national costume, described the festival as the most precious jewel of Latvian culture. "The festival is created by thousands of people who truly believe in the power of song and dance," the president said.
May the coming week become a festivity of the whole nation, resounding in the world and inspiring Latvia for the centuries to come, the president wished.
Latvian Culture Minister Dace Melbarde noted in her speech that this year the Song and Dance Celebration, which is held in Latvia every five years, is dedicated to the centenary of Latvia's independence and that it probably will become the centerpiece of the year-long centenary program.
The tradition of Song and Dance Celebration "helps us reconnect with our land, our people and ourselves," the minister said, urging people to keep the atmosphere of the festivity in their hearts also in their daily lives.
The ceremony honoring the chief conductors and directors of the Song and Dance Celebration paid tribute to 48 individuals who have provided the greatest contribution to maintaining and developing the tradition which dates back to 1873 when choristers held the first Song Celebration in Riga.
The procession of the Song and Dance Celebration, which followed the opening ceremony, started at the landmark Freedom Monument in downtown Riga and moved along the Latvian capital's main thoroughfare to a stadium where the approximately 40,000 amateur singers and dancers taking part in the Song and Dance Celebration were treated to performances by popular Latvian artists and actors.
The XXVI Latvian Song and XVI Dance Celebration 2018 is scheduled to take place on July 1- 8.