• Since long time ago, the Lithuanians, like other nations, celebrated the many significant days. There were formed entire festive cycles with their clear purpose. They were associated with one or another material and spiritual life need. After the Christianity was brought into, most of these holidays have been associated with the Christian dates, but they kept their old pre-Christian nature and is a valuable source of ancient world to shed light on.
Winter Holidays• Christmas Eve• Christmas• New Year’s Day• Epiphany
Christmas Eve• Christmas Eve is a traditional village holiday, which is celebrated during the shortest day and longest night. It is the night holiday and the celebration begins only in the late evening.The ritual supper is not eaten until the evening star appears in the sky. After having the big supper, Christmas Eve’s sorcery, witchcraft and superstitions began. Christmas Eve’s celebration symbolically lasted all night: going to bed, a table was left unclear and sometimes even set afresh with special dishes, so that the souls of the dead would eat well.
Christmas• Christmas is an ancestral celebration of the return of the sun. From that time on days begin to lengthen. There can be still found many of the old customs, especially divination and predictions, in the current Christmas. In ancient times, Christmas was celebrated for three days. It was possible in the farming nation, because in the middle of winter no much work has to be done, just to tidy up at home and look after the animals. The first day of Christmas was so sacred that only the most necessary work was allowed. There was no visiting, no cooking. On Christmas morning, before breakfast, the family sang holy Christmas carols, and then greeted each other with a holy Christmas and then ate breakfast. On Christmas morning, the Christmas Eve supper table was cleared away and checked to see if souls of the dead left any signs of having been at the table.
• People went out to look what the Christmas weather was like. If Christmas is white Easter is green. If it happened that during the Christmas snow had not covered the ground, it is certainly snow at Easter. In later times, people went out a lot on the first Christmas day, but it wasn’t forgotten that this is Jesus Birthday Celebration. For example, the neighbours gathered in the larger landowner’s house, sang Christmas carols, prayed, and only then musicians appeared. The hosts started the first dance. This was the official end of Advent, because in Advent time to have fun was avoided or even forbidden. The Christmas season in Lithuania lasts till Epiphany (the Three Kings).
New Year• At New Years Eve, as well as during the New Year was divined next years harvest. At New Years Eve, lit a stove in a bathhouse and threw a billet of lime. It means the harmony within the family, friendships with neighbours. Lithuanians in the New Years Eve sacrificed a goat to wolves at the crossroads believing that in this way it will save their livestock from wild animals through out the year.
• One of the most interesting rituals is hauling a chump through the village and into every yard. People were dressed as gypsies or strangers. They beat “tabalai” and sang a song about the old man, whose bones are thin and long as riding-crops. People believed, as you meet and spend the New Year, you will live all this year, so everyone tried to be cheerful, careless, not to make anyone angry.
EpiphanyIn Lithuania, this day of the Three Kings - Epiphany, crowns the twelveday period after the Winter Solstice - Christmas.In Lithuania this holiday preserved numerous pagan elements.Participants in the processions dressed as supernatural beings, angels,devils, death. However, the main walkers were three men, dressed asthe Three Kings. One of them with a black face, wearing royalclothing, a hat decorated with glitter and a linen beard. The Kings’guide, an angel, carried a moving candle in his hand The Kings did visitall village homesteads, wrote their initials, K M B ( Kasparas, Merkelis,Baltazaras ), on the door post upon entering. Their Angel guide,usually a boy or girl, dressed all in white, carried a huge star shape towhich are attached glittering bells. The Three Kings’ walking fromvillage to village, from house to house, singing Christmas hymns,wishing health and asking for gifts, checked to see if their initials wereon the door posts. A Devil, dressed all in black, with a long red tongueand a switching tail, walked together with the Three Kings. The ThreeKings’ processions, carvings and writings of their initials on doors arestill carried on today.