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The Christmas Eve in Lithuania is a special occasion with very old and deep traditions. Although every region of Lithuania has some particular traditions or some special dinner recipes, today I will talk mainly about the Christmas Eve traditions in the northern part of Lithuania. In every country, the Christmas Eve is special and has its own traditions, but only Lithuanians are celebrating Kūčios, with 12 dishes, spells and magical time when the animals start to talk. Today, I am bringing you the flavor of Christmas Eve traditions in Lithuania, thus, let’ celebrate Kūčios in a Lithuanian way.
Kūčios is a holiday day in Lithuania, and the preparation for the evening starts from early morning. The main dinner dishes start to be prepared, and every corner of the house start to be cleaned. In some families, the Christmas tree is decorated during the Kūčios day. Also, there are some superstitions. It is forbidden to stitch the clothes or chop the firewood on that day. So, from the early morning, the Christmas Eve is a busy day for everyone, a kitchen is full of smells and houses are full of Christmas spirit. Although every person is feeling the warm Christmas feeling inside their hearts, the main Kūčios rule is to stay calm and still not celebrate.
The most important and interesting part starts in the evening. The main idea of Kūčios is to gather all the families members. So usually, everyone from all parts of Lithuania and abroad is coming home to be together with the relatives. The Christmas Eve’s dinner table, according to the Lithuanian traditions, has to be simple - no sumptuous decorations, red tablecloths and traditional Christmas songs. On the table, before putting the tablecloth, fresh hay is placed, and I will tell you later the reason behind. If the family wishes to have a great and happy upcoming year, the dinner should consist of 12 dishes - not less and not more. The Kūčios traditions have changed over time, and nowadays it is a mixture of paganism and Christianity symbolism. Thus, 12 dishes symbolize the 12 months of the year and the 12 Jesus Apostles.
Twelve dishes should be simple as well without meat and expensive fish. Usually, during the Christmas Eve, the fruits like Lithuanian apples are served, then nuts, honey, potatoes with various types of fish, mushrooms, vegetables. Traditional drink is called Kisielius, a thick drink made from cranberries, sugar and potato starch (to add the thickness). The most important dish of the evening - is the Kūčiukai. The name of Lithuanian Christmas Eve - Kūčios came from these small traditional pastries made from leavened dough and poppy seeds. Usually, it is served together with poppy milk but can be eaten alone as well. Before Christmas, all groceries are full of these small pastries, but many families are still making it at home, as it is very easy to make. Also, another and probably the best way to find these tasty poppy pastries is to visit one of the Vilnius main Christmas markets, located in Vilnius Cathedral Square. There you will find hundreds of fluffy Kūčiukai and it can be a perfect gift for friends and family. One more important thing - it is believed that during the Christmas Eve all family members are coming together to have dinner. It means the deceased relatives as well, so for that reason on the table one more, additional plate, is always placed.
After a calm dinner, the funnier part starts. To throw lots after the Christmas Eve's dinner is the outcome of paganism, but still widely used and popular among Lithuanians. Remember that hay under the tablecloth - every person has to pull out one piece of hay - the longest you have the longer you will live. The popular ones are for the girls - to find from where the groom will come, it is needed to fire up the match and look into what side the match’s head will turn - from this side of the world the future husband will come. Also, to get to know if you will get married or not, with closed eyes you have to grab a palmful of Kūčiukai - the twisted number means the upcoming weddings. Of course, there is way more spells and games, and every family has their traditional ones. Also, the most widely used and known superstition about the Christmas Eve is that in the midnight the animals start to talk among each other with human voices and if someone hears that, they won’t live long anymore. I can agree, this one is the scariest Christmas Eve superstition. After the food is done and all of the children know from which side of the world their loved ones will come, the dinner is over.
The Christmas Eve is a magical evening full of traditions and superstitions in Lithuania. The most important thing is that every family has their own traditions that are still alive during these modern days. I hope you felt a little bit of Christmas spirit and got to know more about the unique traditions in Lithuania and Christmas Eve - Kūčios.
Cover picture © Credits to Roman Babakin
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