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Christmas Eve (December 24th)

Christmas Eve in Lithuania was an occasion full of mysticism and secrecy. It was far richer and more meaningful in terms of custom and ritual than Christmas Day. More so than other holidays, Christmas Eve's rituals still retained many pre-Christian elements. It was thought that on Christmas Eve spirits returned to their homes. Because of this, no one went very far from home on the 24th for fear of meeting hostile spirits.

At sunset, a ceremonial dinner was served. Before sitting down to Christmas Eve dinner everyone had to make sure that they were clean, without angry thoughts, at peace with their neighbors and without any debts. The table was covered with hay and usually set with twelve meatless dishes, among them kuciukai(small, hard biscuits with poppies), oatmeal, cranberry pudding and so forth. Places were set at the table for recently deceased family members. Having eaten, the seated people pulled hay stalks from under the tablecloth to forecast their fortunes. A long stem meant a long life, whereas a short one meant that that person might not live until next Christmas. After dinner, the table was not cleared off so that the souls of dead family members could gather around it during the night.

Christmas Eve was a time for fortune telling, especially about weddings. For example, after dinner, unmarried young girls took as many fence pickets or logs into their arms as they could and then counted them. Even numbers meant that they would marry soon whereas odd numbers signified that they'd remain single in the following year.



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Next: Christmas (December 25th) Previous: THE CALENDAR CYCLE

"LITHUANIAN ROOTS", Edited by Rytis Ambrazevicius


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