Social media users are sharing images of Christmas decorations in Lielvārde, Latvia, and claiming they show Nazi-style swastikas. However, the symbol is rooted in the country’s history and folklore and is not inspired by the swastika used by the German Nazi Party in the first half of the twentieth century.
One Facebook user posted a collection of photos (here) showing a Christmas tree-shaped structure and fences decorated in red and white tinsel and lights. Among the shapes and patterns are swastika-shaped symbols.
The caption reads: “X-Mass tree in Latvia. #StopFascism #StopNazi #StopNATO #StopTerrorism.”
Similar posts can be seen on Facebook (here, here, here) and Twitter (here).
However, the symbol is not inspired by the swastika used in Nazi Germany. Rather, it is called an ugunskrusts – meaning ‘fire cross’ – in Latvia and is rooted in the country’s history and folklore.
The Ministry of Culture’s online National Encyclopedia (here) explains that although the symbol can have a controversial interpretation, it is steeped in Latvian mythology.
“In the territory of Latvia, the oldest finds of the fire cross date back to the 3rd century,” it reads. “In the following centuries, the fire cross can be found in the archaeological material of all the ethnic groups living in the territory of Latvia – lībiešu, kuršu, zemgaļu, sēļu and latgaļu.”
The page explains that there are multiple variations of the cross, including those that look just like the Nazi swastika, and that the symbol was used by Latvian Nazi-sympathisers in the 20th century.
However, it adds that the use of Nazi-style swastikas is illegal in Latvia unless “the purpose of use is not related to the glorification of totalitarian regimes or the justification of committed crimes”.
“This law does not affect those cases when the cross of fire is used in the context of folk ornament…, dance festival dances, folk art products or in other creative ways.”
Images of the Christmas decorations can be found on the region’s municipality Facebook page (here) and its YouTube channel (here).
Latvian news reports about the decorations do not mention the symbol being inspired by Nazism (here, here and here ).
However, one article (here) discusses how “Russian propagandists” refuse to believe the Latvian origin of the symbol.
Missing context. Although the symbol on the Christmas decorations looks like a Nazi swastika, it is an ugunskrusts, which originates in Latvian folklore and history.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.
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