Easter traditions in Lithuania

“So the women have to stay at home all day and cook for men, and when they eventualy come to visit they pour water on girls?”

Basically, this was my reaction when Anita told about Hungarian Easter traditions. It was very interesting to hear about the symbolics of that particular tradition (girl is like a flower that needs to be watered – that’s so sweet!) and also to see how Anita paints Easter eggs. During our conversation I discovered some similarities but also quite a lot of differences to Lithuanian Easter. So, I thought I will share some of Lithuanian traditions – maybe you’ll find them to be strange, but, hopefully, interesting nonetheless!

VERBŲ SEKMADIENIS

In Lithuania (as well as in most Christian countries) the celebration starts first Sunday before Easter. Although in most of the countries it is called Palm Sunday, in Lithuania we call it Verbų Sekmadienis (Sunday of Verbos).

Verba – it is a bunch of flowers and/or other plants. There are a lot of different types of verba, and it is considered to be a form of folk art.

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There are a lot of traditions surrounding verba, but one of the most common ones is to get up early in the morning and whip the sleeping relatives with verba , (it has to be consecrated in church) while saying a short poem: “It’s not me who whips you, it’s verba!”. Traditionaly for that small branch on juniper is used, but other types of verba can be used as well. It is believed that doing things brings health to the person, children will grow better, etc. Also a little branch of verba used to be put into bee hive, to keep the bees healthy, some branches kept at home to keep it safe from bad spirits.

VELYKOS

Easter in Lithuania has very old traditions, it was celebrated as awakening of the nature. Only later this celebration was meged with Christian Easter.

Velykos (Easter) – in Lithuanian this word has similarities with word vėlė (soul of someone who died), there was an old tradition to visit cemetery and leave Easter eggs on the graves, as a food for the souls.

Easter eggs. Easter egg symbolises life, awakening of the nature, fertility. It was considered that Easter eggs have magical powers, women used to keep a couple of them at home through all the year to protect house from the Thunderer (pagan god of thunder), men used to put some Easter eggs into the ground to make crops grow better.

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Coloring of the Easter eggs have a lot of symbolism. Each color represents different things: red – life, black- soil, blue – sky, gree – awakening of nature and plants, yellow – crops. There are a lot of different techniques for coloring Easter eggs, but the most common ones are wax, carving and coloring with natural dyes (onion husk, flowers, plants). The shapes that were painted also have meaning. Most common ones – sun motives (so plants and crops would have enough of the sun), stars (so fields would have enough light even at night), grass-snakes and snakes (symbolises the awakening of all life forms in spring), plant motives.

Velykė (The old lady of Easter). This is an old tradition, now it’s not very common. It was believed than on Easter old lady Vėlykė visits children and leaves two Easter eggs for them on the windowsill.

EASTER ACTIVITIES

Rolling of the eggs. This is a tradition that is still very common. It symbolism – eggs, rolling on the ground will wake all the plants and everything that is under. The game has some variations, but in general eggs are rolled and the person who rolls the egg furthest, wins. This game can be played both with normal and wooden/plastic eggs.

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Photo credit

Smashing of the eggs. One person holds the egg, other one tries to smash it with other egg. The one whose egg stays intact wins. The goal of the game is to find out who chose the strongest egg, it means that person all year will be lucky. In my family this tradition is still alive, and we do this by age – the oldest person has to start, the youngest is the last one to try to smash the egg. Usually we do this just before the Easter breakfast, and afterwards we eat the eggs whose shell was smashed during the game.

There are some other Easter traditions (like swinging on the swings, the higher you swing, the happier you will be, singing in the fields so the crops would grow better), but those are not very common anymore and we don’t have them in my family (well, we don’t have any crops, so that might be the reason…:)). One thing that we always do on the second day of Easter is going to visit friends and relatives and exchanging Easter eggs with them. Also, in my family we have a tradition that kids of the family get chocolate egg with a surprise inside 🙂

Thanks for reading and happy Easter for you all!

Best wishes,

Živilė

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