ASH WEDNESDAY ( a.k.a. Pelenø Diena )
First day after Shrove Tuesday ( a.k.a. Uþgavënës )
Ashes from last year’s burned Palms are sprinkled on peoples’ heads
in church. This is a reminder that being made of dust, we will become dust
very soon. Those returning from church bring aches home and sprinkle heads
of those who remained at home.
This is a day of "black fast". Women boil water, wash all utensils,
scrub tables and benches so that there would be no remains of dairy or
Together with Christian traditions, Lithuanians continued ancient agrarian
beliefs. The tradition of dressing up as an old man or Uncle Ash ( a.k.a.
Pelenium ), still remains. He would dress in rags, add a long nose and
a humpback, carried a bag of ashes, a long cane and walked through villages.
He sprinkled ashes on passers by and entered each home where he received
food or money. If some households did not receive Uncle Ash, he spread
ashes on windows and doors of that house.
Widely practiced traditions of bringing a stone or a wood stump into
the house on this day, assured good summer crops of flax. In Samogitija
this act was called "carting herring". Some twelve masked persons rolled
these upon arrival at the house. In other areas, women tied a herring head
to a string and dragged it across neighbor’s doorstep calling "here, here,
On this day men searched for an old maid, tied a wooden stump to her
waist and drove her from one house to another, hitting her with ashen bags.
This went on until another old maid was found, then the first one was released,
while the second inherited the first one’s fate.
Young men drove around in sleighs or dragged a bundle of dry branches.
When they found old men, they took the bundle of dry branches into their
houses, insisting that they chew on them. To those over fifty years old,
a piece of wood was left to chew on. If one of the old men had agreed to
wed after Easter, he would place a liter of whiskey so that the piece of
chewing wood would be removed.
After overeating of fat foods on Shrove Tuesday, many became ill. Numerous
homesteads were visited by masqueraders dressed as Hungarian - Doctors,
wearing black or blue trousers, tall hats and painted faces. They carried
canes with an axe butt, also carried a bag filled with clattering medicine
boxes. They knew how to palm read the future. They also took payment for
supposed cures and were treated to strong drinks.
There are many beliefs connected to this day and to ashes. One should
sleep in on this day, rise with the sun so that all household work would
be good. Women took naps at noon, to prevent their waists from hurting.
Blessed ashes were sprinkled into wells to make water clean and tasty,
also sprinkled on top of the head to prevent headaches. On this day, before
sunrise ashes were sprinkled over gardens to keep out worms from them.
Ashes were placed in glasses to stop those from drinking who abused alcohol.
In the morning the master of the house took a pail of water and poured
it into four directions from the well, so that there would be no water
shortage in the summer.
Last century, girls collected hemp and flax fibers, from which they
wove ropes to be used for Easter swings. People said that potatoes will
rot, if it rains, is foggy and damp on Ash Wednesday.