Lithuania officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the largest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the east of Sweden and Denmark.
It borders Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Kaliningrad Oblast (a Russian exclave) to the southwest. Lithuania’s capital and largest city is Vilnius. The Lithuanians are a Baltic people, and the official language, Lithuanian, is one of only two living languages (together with Latvian) in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family.
Christmas Celebrations in Lithuania :
In Lithuania, Christmas is known as Kaledos. Christmas Eve (Kūčios) is a more important day than Christmas Day. In Lithuania this was also a time to stay in the home after dark because evil spirits were very active at this time of year. Children and young adults were these creatures favorite prey. Christmas Eve is a time of magic and secrecy. It is thought that the spirits of the dead return home on this night.
At sunset, a special meal (Kucios) is served. Before anyone sits down at the table they must be clean both in body and soul, at peace with the neighbors and free of debts. Straw is a traditional decoration. The hay is covered with a pure white tablecloth, which is only used on this day. The table is then decorated with candles and small branches or twigs from a fir tree. The straw reminds people of the baby Jesus lying in a manger. A superstition says that if you pull a piece of straw from under the tablecloth and it’s long, you will have a long life; but if it’s short you will have a short life; and a thick straw means a rich and happy life. Often an extra place is set – for a family member who can’t come to the meal or if a family member has died during the past year. Sometimes a candle is lit to remember family members who died. Some people believe that dead family members come and join the family round the table. People who are going to be alone on Christmas Eve are also invited to meal.
On Christmas morning, the children receive a visit from Father Christmas (Kaledu Senelis). Several costumed helpers attend to Father Christmas, and is dressed in a fur coat that is inside out. Who has a flaxen beard. He carries a sack filled with grain. In the house, Father Christmas scatters grain into the corner of honor behind the table (krikstasuolis). In order for the children to receive their gifts they must perform a song or dance.
At the center of the table is a plate of Christmas wafers – one wafer for each person at the meal. In some parts of Lithuania the wafers have the scene of the birth of Jesus on them. The meal starts when the first stars can be seen in the night sky. If it’s cloudy, the ‘head of the house’ decides when the meal will start! The wafers are offered to each person at the table and Christmas greetings are exchanged. Sometimes an apple is also cut into as many people at the meal and is shared. This remembers the apple eaten in the Garden of Eden. The Kūčios meal normally has 12 dishes – one for each of Jesus’s followers. None of the dishes contain meat (and some people also don’t have milk or eggs in them).
Traditional and popular dishes include fish (often herring), kūčiukai (small sweet pastries) normally soaked in poppy milk, kisielius (a drink made from cranberries), dried fruit soup, beet soup (often with mushroom filled dumplings in it), vegetable salad, mushrooms, boiled or baked potatoes, sauerkraut, a kind of wheat porridge with honey and bread. Normally water or homemade cider is drunk with the meal.
Sweet dishes are also often eaten including kissel (a fruit soup/jelly thickened with potato flour) and stewed fruit compote. After the meal there might be a visit from ‘The Old Man of Christmas’ (Santa Claus) with presents! People will also exchange presents between themselves. When the presents have been exchanged, children often go to bed and the adults might go out to Midnight Mass (Bernelių mišios – which means Shepherds’s Mass). Popular Christmas Tree decorations in Lithuania are ones made from white paper straws. They are often in the shapes of stars, snowflakes and other geometric shapes. You can find out more about the straw decorations and see some photos on them on this site. The Christmas season lasts until the 6th of January – Epiphany.
Christmas Celebrations are grand in Vilnius the capital and the largest city of Lithuania. Apart from that notable Christmas Celebrations also take place on other Lithuanian cities like Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai, Panevėžys, Alytus, etc.
Merry Christmas in Lithuania greeted as – “Laimingu Kaledu!”
Wishing all readers Merry Christmas 2019 & Happy New Year 2020 !!!