Easter Traditions in Lithuania
â€œVelykosâ€? = Easter The word for Easter, Velykos, has been borrowed from Beylorussian and means "important day." The word is very accurate because Easter was the year's most solemn festival in Lithuania. On this holiday the Christian elements (the Resurrection of Christ) merges with pagan Lithuanian traditions, the rebirth of nature or its awakening from winter's sleep.
Palm Sunday The Holly Week begins on Palm Sunday when the all the Christian world celebrates Jesus' noble entry into Jerusalem on the last Sunday before Easter. A lot of people go to church that day where they bring â€œverbaâ€?, special Palm Sunday bouquets made of dry flowers. They serve the same symbolic function as palm branches do in Southern countries.
Flowing Water The early Eastern morning, just before dawn, abounds with magical power. Much of this magic is concentrated in flowing water. Bathing in such water before sunrise prevents all boils, sores, rashes and other skin ailments. If it rains on Easter morning, it is necessary to stand bareheaded in the rain to ensure good growth. Small children who wanted to grow quickly were reminded of this.
Religious Rituals Many 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 were held high, girls strewed flowers, the choir and all the people sang, alternating with a brass band, and the church bells pealed loudly. People normally bring food to the church service to be blessed, for example, Easter eggs, salt, bread, cakes, ham, bacon, sausage, butter and cheese. Blessing eggs and bread would assure plenty of food all year. Butter and cheese were blessed to make sure that cows would give much milk.
Other Traditions 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.
Easter Eggs 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).
Dyeing Eggs There were two main methods of egg decorating: drawing designs with wax or scratching designs on dyed eggs. Numerous designs consisted of blossoms, snakes, wheel and cog, stars, branches of rue, snowflakes and many others.
Velyke or Easter Woman 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.
Easter Games 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 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.
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