Dec 23, 2011

Christmas time - Lithuanian traditions

24th of December is "Kūčios" [K u: tʃ i o s], this is the main part of Christmas time.
25th of December is Kalėdos [K a l e d o s] (couldn't find exact sound in English which would sound like Lithuanian "ė") first day. When we translate "Christmas" in to Lithuanian, we translate it in to "Kalėdos". One of my friends who is all in Yoga said, that Kalėdos word comes from Vedic "Kali Dao", like from nowadays Hinduism deity Kali. This has a meaning, because Lithuanian language is old and has many similar words with Sanskrit. Also fits with a meaning of re-birthing nature.

Many people celebrate Christmas, not many remembers that it is time when longest nights ends and days starts to become longer. This is why here in Lithuania we have a lot of ancient traditions, because winter solstice was an important event (despite the fact that Christianity became main religion 200-300 years ago ineveryday life)

Of course now here in Lithuania we became "civilized" and old traditions are being forgotten more and more each year. Especially in last 20 years when we became independent from Russia and got more western (American?) influence.

Christmas is a time, when all family gather in parent's home. As people after WW2 ware forcibly moved to towns some old traditions ware changed, lost or lost their meaning.

Forest tree.. Decorations as food for animals.

Christmas tree. The most important Christmas time symbols in the world. According to traditions Christmas tree was decorated just on evening before Christmas (24th of December). It was decorated outside, if forest was near Christmas tree was decorated in forest. Decorations ware not from glass or plastics like now :) They ware apples, carrots, other vegetables. It was a special time for animals, so food was for animals too. Now we are "civilized", maily living in towns and so on... We cut of trees and bring back in to homes to see how slowly they die and to be happy to have one at home. We put shiny toys on Christmas trees and are happy about forgetting that while these toys ware created, earth became poluted a little more.. This is called to be civilised. Nature is maily forgotten. Some remembers, but most of people feel good to forget about such traditions.

Vegetarianism on Christmas evening (24th of December). NO meat was eaten on that day, only fish. As we live in country where winters are cold, not so much food is around in winter (just as much as you prepare in summer), people ware working a lot of physical work, so strength was needed.. So many Lithuanian did eat meat, and does it today. I think today we eat more that in old times. But it was believed that on that evening you may even hear animals talking and understand what they talk, but you have listen them in secret, that they would not notice you. So it was evening when animal ware very special to humans.

New Years. Under our old tradition 25th of December was like new years. This is because of day light coming back.

Kūčiukai - traditional meal for Christmas.

Food on 24th evening.*There must be 12 meals on table like there are months in a year or at least 9. These numbers have magic meaning in our folklore.
*We have special meal "kūčiukai" [K u: tʃ i u k a i] which is made from flour, poppy seeds, some additive (like honey or sugar, eggs), eaten with milk. It is said that the day naming "Kūčios" comes from this meal, which is eaten just on this day.
*One "must be on table" is something from fish.
*NO meat.
* It was tradition to invite lonely relative or neighbour to the table, if his health is too weak to come, to bring him some food from table.

Other traditions:
*Before "Kūčios" all main works must be done, all debts give back. Before that day you have to say sorry for the people you done something bad, or to someone you have hearted. Otherwise all next year you will be in debts and will not get along with people.
*It is said that on the "Kūčios" day you should stop thinking about I, about your "ego" and to think about "we".
*In the morning of "Kūčios" all family member do the most important works. After this they go to wash themselves. This is not only for washing off the dirt, this is also rituallic washing from not only body but and dirt wash of a soul, also washing off evil forces which may effect health or life.
*Table of Kūčios is wonderful place to remember all your family. Not only those who are alive, but those who are dead too. An empty place is putted on the table for "all those who are not today with us", for living who are aways and for dead who are away too. This tradition is from ancient times when people believed that spirits of ancestors lives together with the living ones. Also this tradition is still living with even in Christian tradition of Lithuania.
* Before eating the eldest man of a family stands up and gives a talk about gratefulness that there is food on table, that family members are here, that someone is away, but is not forgotten and so on.

There are many many sortileges for this day (24th), but about them... maybe some other time :)

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