Advent ( starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25) 24th of December – Christmas Eve 25th – 26th of December - Christmas 6th of January - Day of the Three Kings 2nd of February – Grabnyčios ( Candlemas) 4th of March – Saint Casimir‘s ( Lithuanian Patron) Day 8th of March – Užgavėnės ( Winter expulsion festival) 9th of March – Ash Wednesday 17 th of April – Verbų sekmadienis ( Palm Sunday ) From 1 7 th to 25th of April – Holy Week 21 st – Holy Thursday 22 nd - Holy Friday 23 rd – Holy Saturday 24 th – Resurrection Sunday - Easter 25 th – The Second Day of Easter 12 th of June - Pentecost, or Whitsunday (Sekminės – Seventh Sunday after Easter ) 24 th of June - Joninės (Saint John’s Day) 15 of August – Žolinė - (Holy Herbal Day, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) 1st of November – All Saints‘ Day 2nd of November – All Souls‘ Day
Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Christ Child. Advent is a period beginning with the Sunday nearest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (30 November) and embracing four Sundays. The first Sunday may be as early as 27 November, and then Advent has twenty-eight days, or as late as 3 December, giving the season only twenty-one days.
24th of December – Christmas Eve 25th – 26th of December – Christmas Christmas Eve is more important than Christmas day in Lithuania. December the 24 th is the shortest day of the year. All traditions are related to it. Christmas Eve. The house has been cleaning all week. Preparations for Christmas Eve take all day : food prepared not only for special supper ( Kūčios) but also for the first day of Christmas. People fast and abstain from meat. It is vitally important that Chistmas Eve supper include no meat dishes because it could then no longer be called Kūčios but an ordinary meal prepared for any other evening. On Christmas Eve the house must be cleaned, all the bed linens changed and all family members must bathe and don clean clothes before the evening meal. For Christmas Eve dinner , the table is prepared as follows: a handful of fine hay is spread evently on the table. This is a reminder that Jesus was born in the stable and laid in a manger on hay. The table is then covered with a pure white tablecloth, set with plates and decorated with candles. A small plate with as many Christmas wafers as there are persons present is palced in the centre of the table. Supper on Christmas Eve is special and traditional. The whole family gathers together. All family members make an effort to come home for the Christmas Eve supper, even from a distance. Perhaps not so much for the meal as for the sacred family ritual which draws the family members closer, bandinf everyone and strenghtening warm family ties. If family members has died that year or cannot attend the meal ( only for very serious reasons) an empty place is left at the table. If you know that there is a person anywhere, you must invite him/her to Christmas Eve supper. Eating together and sharing with others is the most important thing.
Twelve different dishes are served on the table because Jesus had twelve apostles.All the dishes are strictly meatless: fish, herring, kūčiukai with poppy seed milk, kisielius ( cranberry pudding), a dried fruit soup or kompote, a salad of winter and dried vegetables. Everyone gathers at the dinner table as soon as the first star appears in the sky. If the night is cloudy, when father or grandfather announces it is time to eat. When everyone is assembled at the table, a prayer is said. The father then takes a wafer and offers it to the mother wishing her a Happy Christmas. „ God granr that we are all together again next year“ mother responds and brakes off a piece of wafer. She offers the father her wafer to return. The father then offers the wafer to every family member or guest at the table. After that everyone eats what he wishes but it is essential to at least taste every food. The meal is eaten solemnly, there is little conversation or joking. If anyone needs to drink, water, homemade cider or fruit juise is served. As soon as the main dishes are eaten, everyone waits for the coming of Christmas Man ( Santa Claus). He ussually „ leaves“ a big sack full of gifts behind the door. Everyone gets many gifts that they have prepared for each other. Everyone is very pleased. After this large dinner everyone eats special sweet courses: very sour thick cranberry kissel, mixed, stewed fruit kompote, and a special Christmas Eve dish of the poppy seed milk, poppy seed milk with very small dumplings ( lumps) kūčiukai. In earlier times, the man of the house always took food from the Christmas Eve table for the animals to the cattle shed. The belief was that people and animals would be friendly in the year to come, doing nothing bad to each other.
After the presents were changed, the children usually went to bed while the adults went to Midnight ( Which is still called Bernelių Mišios – Shepherds‘ Mass). The fields are covered with sparkling snow,streams, rivers and lakes are under ice.Country roads were also snows covered and the people usually travelled is sleighs. On Christmas Eve night bells were attached to the horses‘ harnesses: sometimes one or two or entire string of bells. Sometimes small, high-pitched handballs or a good-sized bell. From all sides on Christmas Eve nightresounded with chiming and tinkling of bells: near and far,soft and loud...The mysteryous, quiet night air of Christ‘s Birth resonated with endless ringing, the murmur of sliding sleighs and Christmas joy. On the first day of Christmas people usually stay at home and celebrate with their family members. On the second day of Christmas they visit their friends and relatives and give Christmas presents to each other.
6th of January - Day of the Three Kings When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, during King Herod’s reign, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem asking "Where is this eminent Jewish King? We saw his star rising and came to honor him". In Lithuania, this day of the Three Kings - Epiphany, crowns the twelve day period after the Winter Solstice - Christmas. Lithuanians called this period between Christmas, time between holidays and evenings, holy evenings. Throughout Lithuania, during this period, women did not spin, mend and men did not chop wood. In some regions it was even forbidden to handle a knife. All these restrictions were related to animals. After the long period of Advent, when young people were not allowed to conduct any entertainments - therefore this period of twelve evenings was truly a revival for them. The young people gathered each evening for dancing, singing, games and other amusements. All gatherings and amusements came to an end on January 6th , during the Three Kings processional walks. 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 as the Three Kings. One of them with a black face, wearing royal clothing, a hat decorated with glitter and a linen beard. The Kings’ guide, an angel, carried a moving candle in his hand The Kings did visit all village homesteads, wrote their initials, K M B ( Kasparas, Merkelis, Baltazaras ), on the door post upon entering. Often farmers themselves inscribed these initials, not only on the door post but also above windows, above barn, stable, granary doors, on chests, grain bins, on the stove near the damper, using consecrated chalk. Crosses were drawn between the letters, and sometimes only crosses were drawn . It is still believed that the crosses are miraculous symbols, able to protect from evil spirits, natural calamities, robbers.
Candlemas occurs 40 days after Christmas. This holiday marks the midpoint of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox. This holiday commemorates the ritual purification of Mary forty days after the birth of her son Jesus. 2nd of February – Grabnyčios ( Candlemas)
4th of March – Saint Casimir‘s ( Lithuanian Patron) Day St. Casimir is the patron saint of Lithuania. He was born on October 3, 1458, the third of thirteen children of King Casimir IV and Elizabeth of Austria, daughter of Albert II of Habsburg. The young prince was trained in spirituality and displayed holiness at an early age. In contrast to the other members of the royal court, he was a shining example of faith, piety, humility, and chastity. He had a great love for the Eucharist and for the Blessed Virgin Mary . St. Casimir was a charismatic person who was noted for his strong sense of justice and for his charity. In an atmosphere of luxury and magnificence the young prince had fasted, worn a hair-shirt, slept upon the bare earth, prayed by night, and watched for the opening of the church doors at dawn. His charity to the poor and afflicted knew no bounds. The young prince consoled the poor with his gracious words, and frequently helped with generous alms. He was known to visit the sick and served them in their needs counting it an honor as he saw in the afflicted one the person of Christ Himself. Thus he earned the title, "Father of the poor.“ He expressed his deep love for our Blessed Lady by frequently singing a beautiful hymn in her honor. He was buried with this favorite song to Our Lady -- a Latin hymn to Mary called "Omni die dic Mariae" which we know as "Daily, Daily Sing to Mary." Casimir died at the age of 26 on March 4, 1484, a victim of tuberculosis. Buried at Vilnius, Lithuania, his tomb became famed for many miracles. He was canonized in 1522 by Pope Adrian VI.Casimir is the patron of youth. He is also the patron saint of bachelors and is represented by a crown and a lily (which symbolizes purity.)
8th of March – Užgavėnės - ( Winter expulsion festival) Užgavėnės is a Lithuanian festival that takes place during the seventh week before Easter (Ash Wednesday). Its name in English means "the time before Lent". The celebration corresponds to Roman Catholic holiday traditions in other parts of the world, such as Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, and Carnaval. Užgavėnės begins on the night before Ash Wednesday, when an effigy of winter (usually named Morė ) is burnt. A major element of the holiday, meant to symbolize the defeat of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, is a staged battle between Lašininis ("porker"), personifying winter, and Kanapinis ("hempen man"), who personifies spring. Devils, witches, goats, the grim reaper, gypsies, and other joyful and frightening characters appear in costume during the celebrations. The participants and masqueraders dance and eat the traditional dish of the holiday - pancakes with a variety of toppings, since round pancakes are a symbol of the returning sun.
9th of March – Ash Wednesday That day ashes from last year’s burned Palms are sprinkled on peoples’ heads in church. This is a reminder that being made of dust, we will become dust very soon. Those returning from church bring aches home and sprinkle heads of those who remained at home. There are many beliefs connected to this day and to ashes. One should sleep in on this day, rise with the sun so that all household work would be good. Women took naps at noon, to prevent their waists from hurting. Blessed ashes were sprinkled into wells to make water clean and tasty, also sprinkled on top of the head to prevent headaches. On this day, before sunrise ashes were sprinkled over gardens to keep out worms from them. Ashes were placed in glasses to stop those from drinking who abused alcohol. In the morning the master of the house took a pail of water and poured it into four directions from the well, so that there would be no water shortage in the summer. Last century, girls collected hemp and flax fibers, from which they wove ropes to be used for Easter swings. People said that potatoes will rot, if it rains, is foggy and damp on Ash Wednesday.
17 th of April - Palm Sunday The Christian world celebrates Jesus' noble entry into Jerusalem on the last Sunday before Easter. In Lithuania this day is called Verbų Sekmadienis – Palm Sunday. When Christianity came to Lithuania, plants which sprouted earliest were honored during spring feasts. Even now, willows, osiers and weeping willows are consecrated on Palm Sunday. . Mythological folklore relates that one of the willows, called Blindė, had been a very fertile woman, bearing numerous children. Earth, the most fertile mother was jealous of her. When Blindė walked through a wetfield, her feet sank into the mud. Blindë turned into a willow tree out of great sadness. The osier, with male spores was regarded as an unusual tree. Folklore tells that the osier grew out of a secretly murdered man. A fife made of osier wood, speaks in a man's voice. Evil spirits avoid it because of its red color. Most palm bunches have a branch of juniper in them. Juniper is green year round, with late ripening berries and with a peculiar odor. All these plants are principal components of palms, however cranberry, mistletoe, filbert and oak branches together with dried baby's breath and ferns are among the odd numbered pieces in the palm. Pussy willows, hepaticas and some indoor plants are added to give color to the palms. When Christianity was established in Lithuania, palms were consecrated in church. The ancient tradition of whipping each other with palms, still exists, takes place on Palm Sunday or on Easter Sunday. Having returned home with consecrated palms, one whips the head, back shoulders of those who stayed home, repeating all the time, "Illness out, return". The following words were spoken or sung, when striking with the palm: „I am not the one striking, the Palm is striking, you are not in pain, the Palm is in pain, soon it will be Easter!“
21 st – Holy Thursday Easter is the greatest annual church and national calendar, spring holiday. Easter rituals start one week before Easter, on Palm Sunday [ a.k.a. Verbos ]. That week is called the Great Week (Didžioji Savaitė) , it is full of prohibitions, beliefs and archaic traditions. On the last Thursday before Easter, women cleaned houses, washed windows, whitened walls and stoves, washed clothes. Spinners hid spinning wheels and spindles because should they be seen by anyone, the spinner would have great difficulty with her work during the coming year. Here are several examples of behavior and work on Holy Thursday: • on this day, one ran, not looking sideways, to wash before sunrise in swiftly flowing river water. This will make a healthy body, and wearing shirts inside out will make the body function well. • in the morning, away from anyone's eyes, one washed with snow so as to be clean all year. • comb hair thoroughly so that there would be no fleas all year. • cobwebs are removed from barns, this cleans piglets, so they heal easier. • rise early, sweep the house and pour the sweepings on the boundary with the nearest neighbor. Having done that, return home without looking back, this will assure a year with no fleas. • on this day one must go to the forest, make an alder broom and sweep the house with it. Someone should ask, " what are you up to ?" You answer, "I'm chasing away the fleas, why are you asking me?" A spot is shown and the fleas all gather there. • rise early but quietly, so that no one hears you. Fill your apron with wood chips and place in all corners of the house, then a duck, sitting on eggs will be found. • go to your neighbor and steal a handful of firewood, this will assure that you will find many birds' nests in summer. • place a handful of salt on a piece of cloth, tie it and hide it so that no one sees it or touches it during the year. This helps protect children and animals from evil eyes.
22 nd - Holy Friday Holy Friday was also held to be an unusual day. People cast spells, chased witches and other evils. To make insects disappear from houses, stoves were heated with the herb artemisia and all house bugs and insects were thrown into the fire. Ashes were removed, taken far away from the house and dug under. This day's unusualness is evident in wide beliefs throughout Lithuania: • the house has to be clean by Holy Friday, for if on this day chimney is swept or cobwebs are removed, Christ's eyes will be bewitched and the flax harvest will be poor. • if from midnight to noon you do not speak with anyone, you can expect fulfillment of all your desires. • no laundry is done on this day so that ice does not destroy the grain fields. • one should not grind with millstones, so that thunder would not knock. • on this day one should wash up outside, so that in the spring the water would warm up fast. On Holy Friday, eyes were covered and pots were smashed. An immediately smashed pot brought good fortune. People took porridge and buried it in the fields expecting a good harvest. Women endeavored to bake good bread, so that family members would be healthy and strong.
23 rd – Holy Saturday On this day, no lending took place, so that the borrower would not take away the good harvest or other successes. So that witches would not spoil cows' milk on this day, cows were milked with milk going through a branch of the rowen tree. It was thought that the rowen tree leaves and red berries will frighten away all evil spirits. On this day, a bonfire built of old crosses was set in the church yard. The fire was lit striking a piece of flint and blowing the sparks into a dry wood fungus. Everyone rushed to snatch the fire and hurry home with it. To carry the live fire some brought a dried birch fungus, others a tow rope, a metal can or rag. To keep the fire burning while going home, it had to be continuously twisted about.
24 th – Resurrection Sunday - Easter 25 th – The Second Day of Easter On that day m any believers go to church to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. The Easter morning procession is the most solemn and is quite often conducted around the church. Church flags are held high, girls strew flowers, the choir and all the people sing, alternating with a brass band, and the church bells peal loudly. When everyone is back from church, Easter breakfast takes place. The meal begins when the oldest member of the family peels a blest Easter egg, cuts it and gives a piece to every member of the family. This is done so that peace and love would always reign within the family and everyone would live in harmony. Afterward, a variety of other dishes is consumed: meat, sausages, cakes. On Easter it is necessary to eat a lot and well, to "recover from Lent" because of the fast all through the Lent. The egg being the symbol of life and rebirth of nature is given special meaning in Easter traditions. The tradition of egg dyeing and exchanging is much older than Christianity. In Lithuania, eggs were dyed not only before Easter but also before St.George's day and Pentecost (7th Sunday after Easter).
There were two main methods of egg decorating: drawing designs with wax or scratching designs on dyed eggs. Numerous designs consisted of blossoms, wheel and cog, stars, branches of rue, snowflakes and many others. Easter eggs were taken to children by the imaginary Easter woman, who was not to be seen by the children. Children usually found two Easter eggs, in places like shoes, baskets and even in bed. These eggs were very different from those that were dyed at home. Most often mothers exchanged eggs with neighbors or secretly used different dyes. Children began to wait for the Easter Woman on Holy Saturday afternoon, prepared egg nests and placed them in flower gardens, bushes, between wall logs and even on doorsteps. Each child tried to make most beautiful and colorful nests. In all of Lithuania, the act of hitting Easter eggs is known and practiced. The egg is placed in the palm of the hand with thumb and forefinger holding the pointed end of the egg, which is the hitting area. The cracked egg is taken by the person whose egg did not crack in the process of hitting. Whoever has the strongest egg is said to have the longest and healthiest life. Egg rolling is also popular throughout Lithuania. A thick tree bark with a smooth inside is placed at an angle and eggs are rolled down through it. When the egg hits another egg, which had rolled down earlier, the egg's owner takes possession of both eggs.
12 th of June - Pentecost, or Whitsunday (Sekminės – Seventh Sunday after Easter) In Lithuania traditions of Pentecost are related with the end of sowing and the start of summer labors. This is a spring gathering and shepherds' holiday. The most distinctive feature of Pentecost is nature worship. The power of nature was attributed to young, green birch trees. It was believed that the birch tree can pass her vitality to the soil, to animals, protect from illness and all evils. On the eve of Pentecost, village girls dispersed in fields and woods in search of flowers and greenery that were used to make wreaths. Young men picked branches off birch trees, which they placed around doors, gates, inside porches and in living rooms. Wreaths and bunches of flowers decorated the entire house. Tables were covered with linen tablecloths, garden paths were sprinkled with sand and greens. It was believed that the souls of the dead, while visiting homes on Pentecost, rested on birch tree branches. Shepherds decorated cows with birch wreaths, to keep them calm and together, be good milkers and to please the mistress of the house so she would be kind and generous throughout the year.
24 th of June - St. John's Day ( Joninės) In ancient times, this day was an occasion to pay homage to water, fire and plants. It was also a time to cleanse one’s soul as well as to celebrate the summer solstice. However, over time, this holiday lost most of its sacral meaning and only its various festive elements remained. Traditionally, people gathered in beautiful spots such as hilltops or by rivers to feast and honor men named John. A large bonfire and wheel hub on a post were set afire. It was thought that the wider the area that was illuminated by the fire, the better the harvest would be. Young people gathered grasses with which they predicted their futures. Girls also wore wreaths and later set them afloat on rivers and lakes to find out if they would marry or not in the following year. Unmarried young men and women sang, danced and jumped over the remains of the bonfire until daybreak. St. John’s Day dew was thought to have many magical healing properties.
15 of August – Žolinė - (Holy Herbal Day, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) This is one of the most esteemed Virgin Mary's holy days, going to heaven. Lithuanian names for this holy day are "Žolinė", Herbal Holy Day . This day, everyone who goes to church carries herbs, blooming garden flowers, to be blessed. The herbal bouquets also contained ears of rye, barley, oats, sweet peas, cabbages, carrots and apples. It was said that if on this day one did not hold herbs in church, the devil will give his tail to hold. In the spring, the blessed ears of grain were pulverized and mixed with seed grain, to assure an abundant harvest. Vegetables from the blessed bouquets were divided among all family members and some were fed to animals. Dried herbs were kept in the house, behind pictures of the saints. When thunder roared, the house was smoked with the dried herbs and sick people drank herbal teas.
1st of November – All Saints‘ Day 1st of November – All Saints‘ Day All Saints Day in Lithuania is a solemn holiday. November 1 is set aside as a day to recognize the souls of the dead as well as remembering the Saints of the Catholic Church. In Lithuania, All Saints Day is sometimes referred to as Velines, in honor of the pagan holiday during which those who didn't belong to the Catholic Church would celebrate a fall feast in honor of the deceased. .
2nd of November – All Souls‘Day All Souls’ Day in Lithuania is a day to remember the dead. When autumn comes to the end and all the work outside is done, Lithuanians carry out special rituals honoring the souls of their dead ancestors. Candles are lit at gravesite memorials and in churches on this day. The ritual traditions of commemorating the dead are directly related to people's belief that on that day the souls of the dead return to the earth, to their homes. Therefore, the souls of the dead are happy to receive some respect and to be treated according to the rituals of the ancestors.