Easter traditions in Lithuania
Easter is the biggest spring festival in the Christian world. Even non-Christians countries have different forms of celebrations around Easter time. Jews feast Passover, the festival that remembers that God saved the nation from slavery in Egypt. In ancient times, pagans celebrated nature awakening in spring fertility festivals. For non-religious people it is a nice opportunity for the whole family to gather together.
As the majority of Lithuanians are Catholics, Easter is widely celebrated. The preparation for Easter begins one week before Easter, that is called the Holy week.
The Holy Thursday
The Holy Thursday (the day of last Supper and the final day before Jesus was crucified) is usually dedicated to thorough house cleaning. Lithuanians scrub the floor, wash windows, clean all the corners of the house in order to drive away the evil spirits and prepare for forthcoming Easter and the warmth of the spring.
Churches usually hold masses in the morning (Chrism Mass) and one more,- in the evening (Mass of the Lord’s Supper). This is the last masses of the week before Easter Sunday.
As the main Roman Catholic shrine in Lithuania is Vilnius Cathedral, so it can be worth to see masses hold there. On Holy Thursday masses will be held at 10:00 am and 6 pm.
The Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday is the last day before Easter and last day of 40 days long fasting of Lent. It commemorates the day when Jesus laid in the tomb after his death. There are no liturgies, but Christians can bring the food baskets to the church to be blessed. All the family members usually stay at home and work hard, prepare filling meals for tomorrow’s celebration such as various kinds of meat, dumplings, salads, eggs and Easter pies.
The main attraction of the day is eggs decorating. The egg has long been seen as a symbol of fertility and life. Lithuanians have deep traditions of eggs decorating. The oldest found artificial colorful egg (called “margutis”) dates back to the XIII century. By the end of XVI century, this tradition splits all over the country. The most complicated and beautiful method of decorating is painting the egg with hot wax. Usually a sharp, thin needle is dipped into hot wax and set on the egg’s surface. Usually Lithuanians painted the symbols of nature: the sun (for forthcoming sunny days), rain drops (for rich harvest), leaves and even the snakes (for the nature awakening). After the painted egg is dipped into colorful dye. Traditionally, natural colors are used taken from onion peels (brown), birch leaves (yellow), violet blossom (blue), etc. The colors also have meanings. Yellow represents the harvest, blue stands for the sky, green symbolizes awakening of nature and red-life.
Lithuanians also carve the dyed eggs. Firstly the egg is colored with natural dyes and then the surface of the shell is scratched by a sharp tool in order to create various patterns. Both methods, painting with hot wax and carving, require artistic talent and patience, so those that are not so thorough, simply attach the leaves, small branches or flower blossoms to the egg during the staining process and still transforms the egg into a magnificent piece of art.
Easter Sunday is one of the most festive days in a Christian world. It commemorates Jesus resurrection from death. It is the day of joy and celebration.
The celebration starts from the morning. The Catholic families go to church services first and just after it, all the family members gather together to eat festive breakfast. The mandatory dish is eggs. Before eating it, everybody plays the cheerful egg tapping game. Each person chooses a hard-boiled egg and taps the tip of their egg over their opponent’s. Unbroken eggs, continue the game, till the last “healthy” egg remains.
One more playful tradition is eggs rolling. Boiled and painted eggs are taken into competition. Eggs roll down the wooden chute in order to hit the opponent’s egg. One the egg is hit, the holder can take the “tapped” egg. The person whose egg hits the most of the other eggs is the winner of the contest.