In Lithuania, Christmas Eve is one of the most peaceful holidays of the year. It has always been a time when the entire family gathers around the dinner table. Tradition has it that all disagreements must be settled before Christmas Eve dinner so that the upcoming year may bring peace and joy. This little list will help you experience Christmas Eve in a very Lithuanian way.
Before even touching any food at the Christmas Eve table, Lithuanian families share what is known as kalėdaičiai; thin wafers made of wheat, flour and water. Beginning with the eldest member of the family, the wafer is shared with everyone at the table. This is often accompanied by exchanging wishes for the upcoming year. If you’re in Vilnius before Christmas, kalėdaičiai can be bought at any church.
There are over 100 Lithuanian Christmas Eve dishes, all sharing one thing in common – none of them are made with meat. The pre-holiday fast only ends on Christmas Day, so on Christmas Eve Lithuanians turn to dough and fish. Making 12 dishes for dinner symbolises the months of the upcoming year. If you want them all to be successful, you should try a bit of all 12.
One of the longest nights of the year has traditionally been a time to cast a light on the future, especially with regard to relationships. The simplest thing you can do is grab a handful of traditional Christmas cookies, kūčiukai or nuts, and then count them. If the number is even, you’ll find a partner or get married in the next year. Tough luck if it’s odd…maybe the year after next. And if you’ve had a lot of salty herring during dinner, place a cup of water by your bed. The person that hands it to you in your dream that night will become your future spouse.
Every Lithuanian child knows that around midnight on Christmas Eve, animals can speak, or at least that’s what the legend says. And if they do talk, they’ll tell you about what’s in store for you in the future. It’s not that simple, though. You can’t just wait around for them to start speaking, because rumour has it that it’s dangerous and may not end well. It has to happen by chance, but do try to keep an ear out!
Above all, Christmas Eve has always been a time to forget everyday chores. It was believed that doing them on this day may bring bad luck, so take this old folk advice to heart and just relax, get together with the people you love, and cherish the time you spend in each other’s company.