Traditional Lithuanian Christmas Eve

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Lithuania is a cold and magical place at Christmas time. While snow covers the forests and ice covers the lakes, families gather together to celebrate the day when Jesus was born. Lithuania is a Catholic country and mostly follows the Catholic Christmas traditions, however, it has some peculiarities that makes a Lithuanian Christmas very unique. So, what does the traditional day of Christmas Eve look like in Lithuania?

Christmas Eve in Lithuania is a more important day than Christmas Day. In the evening, families have dinner, play games and celebrate together. Many people are fasting and eating only dinner, and the dinner meal shouldn‘t contain any meat. The whole day is dedicated to preparation. The house must be cleaned and all family members need to clean themselves and put on clean clothes. It is believed that being clean helps to protect them from evil and diseases next year.

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The Christmas Eve meal has 12 dishes, this number represents 12 months of the year that passed, and everyone has to try a little bit of all of the dishes for the next year to be successful. On the table has to be one extra plate for a dead family member‘s soul.

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Straw is normally spread under the white tablecloth. It’s reminiscent of the baby Jesus lying in a manger. There’s a tradition of pulling that straw from under the tablecloth, and a superstition that says that if you pull out a long straw you will live a long life, but if it’s a short straw your life will be short.

There is another popular superstition for girls – to find from where the groom will come. The girl needs to fire up a match and watch to which side the match’s head is turning – it’s from this direction that the future husband will come. Also, if you want to know if you will get married, you need to grab a palmful of small traditional cakes called Kūčiukai with your eyes closed. If the number of Kūčiukai in your hand is even, that means your wedding will be soon.

After dinner, Santa Claus comes with presents (or people exchange presents between themselves). When everyone receives their gifts, the children go to sleep. The adults might go to Midnight Mass and, with that, Lithuanian Christmas Eve is over.

Author: Emilija Lideikytė

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