Europe

Masks and snowy streets herald pre-spring rite in Latvia

  • Revellers wearing masks take part in the International Mask Festival in Riga, Latvia, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

    Revellers wearing masks take part in the International Mask Festival in Riga, Latvia, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)  (The Associated Press)

  • Revellers wearing masks take part in the International Mask Festival in Riga, Latvia, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

    Revellers wearing masks take part in the International Mask Festival in Riga, Latvia, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)  (The Associated Press)

  • A girl wearing a carnival mask poses for a photo during the International Mask Festival in Riga, Latvia, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

    A girl wearing a carnival mask poses for a photo during the International Mask Festival in Riga, Latvia, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)  (The Associated Press)

Hundreds of people sang, danced and skipped through the snowy streets of Latvia's capital wearing colorful costumes and masks, participating in a pre-spring rite that dates back to pagan times.

The International Mask Tradition Festival now is celebrated across eastern Europe to coincide with the start of Shrovetide, the Christian period of preparing for Lent.

Some 250 masked participants from Latvia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic participated in the final parade Sunday in the medieval Old Town section of Riga, which has hosted the international festival 18 times.

In pagan times, merrymakers went door-to-door in a seasonal ritual to bring a bountiful harvest.

Inese Auzina, from a local folklore club, said she felt the celebrations were "one of the ways how we can communicate with our past, with our ancestors."