Christmas Day marks the end of the fast that precedes the major holiday. Hence, most of the traditional dishes consumed throughout December and on Christmas Eve don’t include meat. You can find the most popular Christmas dishes at Vilnius’ restaurants and supermarkets from late November. Here’s our pick of what to look for.
The name literally means “Christmas Eve cookies” in Lithuanian and you can purchase them at any supermarket. Basically, they are small bits of dough with poppy seeds. In local homes, they’re baked before Christmas Eve dinner in copious amounts and then consumed within a few weeks, until everyone’s sure they won’t miss them before next Christmas.
Aguonų pienas, or poppy seed milk, is another Christmas Eve specialty. It’s made by steaming poppy seeds, then grinding them and adding either milk or water and a little sugar. It goes well with baked dishes and kūčiukai, which are traditionally soaked in poppy seed milk and then eaten with a spoon. For a taste of the drink in December, pop into Forto Dvaras.
This is both a drink and a dessert. Spanguolių kisielius is prepared with cranberry juice. Starch is often added for thickness. It can be served hot or cold, depending on your preference. Again, this is something you are likely to find in restaurants that serve Lithuanian cuisine, like Bernelių Užeiga.
It’s fair to say that no Christmas Eve dinner table is complete without herring. It comes in many forms, but mostly it’s bought from stores or markets and prepared according to family recipes. Try it to taste what locals have at festive dinners – you’re sure to see herring on the menu at most restaurants in December.
This worldwide Christmas staple has made its way to Lithuania, too. From mid-November, you can buy mulled wine in cafes and restaurants across town. Some have their own recipes with local spices added to the traditional mix of cinnamon, cloves and anise.