LITHUANIAN CHRISTMAS CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS:
Ancient historical sources confirm the main moments of the winter holiday, the return of the sun, which are found in the 20th century Lithuanian beliefs and traditions.
Supper on CHRISTMAS Eve ” Kūčios”, the oldest Lithuanian feast, celebrated according to the sun’s calendar. It is a night holiday, whose festivities begin in the evening. This is not only the most archaic, but the best preserved of holidays. Intimate family celebration, in closed micro social environment, protected ” Kūčios” from many 20th century modern innovations. The pagan spirit of Lithuanian “Kūčios” did not confront with Christian humanistic philosophy.
The entire December 24th day , CHRISTMAS eve is called “Kūčios”. Linguist K.Buga believes that Lithuanian ancestors borrowed the word “Kūčios”, way back in the 12th century through Slavs from the Greeks. This shows up in words with the same meaning – Russian ” kutja”, White Russian ” kucia”, Greek ” kukkia”. “Kūčia” is a special dish assigned to the souls of dead ancestors. It is made of stewed wheat, peas, beans, sweetened with honey or eaten with poppy seed milk. In the region of Merkinë, “Kūčia” was a special loaf of bread, called the “Kūčia loaf “, it was carried three times around the house by the master of the house, dressed in holiday clothes. He then knocked on the door, when asked who’s knocking, he would answer, ” God together with “Kūčia” asks to be in your house”. Upon entering, the master placed the bread on the table. In the region of Kaišiadorys, the master of the house carried a basket filled with “Kūčkai” supper foods three times around the house. In other regions, the CHRISTMAS wafers were carried in the same manner.
Ancient “Kūčia” supper dishes are beet soup with mushrooms, and fish. Twelve different dishes were prepared, this tradition still continues. All dishes are meatless, with no fat, eggs and dairy products. Today’s “Kūčia” supper is begun with the passing around of the CHRISTMAS wafer together with wishes for each member.
The ritual supper is not eaten until the evening star appears in the sky. Until then, the bathhouse is heated, people bathe and dress up in festive clothes. The floor was strewn with juniper by the mistress and the master placed handfuls of hay on the table, covered it with a white linen tablecloth. In many regions, a basket filled with hay, sheaves of grain and a horse’s collar was placed under the table. Foods were placed on the table and as many tablespoons as there were eaters. If the number of family members was an odd number, a beggar or a lone neighbor was invited. If during that year there had been a death in the family, an upside down spoon was set in that place. This being a family feast, not only live but also dead members participate in it. The eldest family member went outside to invite the souls of the ancestors, the cold, the wind and bees to eat together.
The tradition of feeding the souls of the dead, remain in the 20th century in many parts of Lithuania. In the region of Ukmergë, a glass of beer or kvass was set in the place where the dead member used to sit. Around Kupiškis after the meal the table was cleaned away and set afresh with meat dishes, so that the souls of the dead would eat well. In Eastern Prussia a goose was placed on the table in honor of the souls of the dead. In other regions food remains were placed on windowsills or in vestibules. This food was for the souls who did not die at home.
CHRISTMAS biscuits, are among ritual foods together with barley porridge, both eaten with poppy seed milk. A must dish is oat pudding, which was given to the souls of the dead, wind and cold. Spells were cast in order to prepare a good oat pudding. In Suvalkija, while preparing the oat pudding, coatless and barefoot children ran around the house reciting: .
” pud, pud, pudding
………………..WISH YOU ALL A MERRY CHRISTMAS………………..