Easter eggs made by Ada Mickuvienë.
EASTER [ a.k.a. VELYKOS ]
Easter is the greatest annual church and national calendar, spring holiday.
This date is set according to the moon cycle after March 21st
, first Sunday of the full moon. The sowing of spring crops starts after
On this holiday the Christian elements [ resurrection
of Jesus Christ ] merge with ancient national traditions, the rebirth of
nature when the goddess " Žemyna" was honored. Easter rituals
start one week before Easter, on Palm Sunday [ a.k.a. Verbos ]. That week
is called the Great Week [ a.k.a. Didžioji Savaitë ] , it
is full of prohibitions, beliefs and archaic traditions. At the end of
19th century, in the region of Lyda, on Holy Wednesday, Lithuanians heated
the bathhouses so that men could bathe from midnight to dawn and women
on the morning of Holy Thursday. Until the end of 19th century, Holy Wednesday
was a dry day of fasting, with no milk, meat, butter and on this day no
one left the house while chewing on something so that rats would not enter
the house. On Holy Wednesday, in villages of Samogitija, there was the
tradition of dragging a herring around the church. Children drew a picture
of a herring on a flat board and dragged it around the church, in the churchyard.
The draggers were followed by a crowd, all whipping the fish.
On the last Thursday before Easter, women cleaned houses,
washed windows, whitened walls and stoves, washed clothes. Spinners hid
spinning wheels and spindles because should they be seen by anyone, the
spinner would have great difficulty with her work during the coming year.
L.Jucevièius writes that when wishing to avoid
meeting with evil souls, the head of the household lights a candle on Holy
Thursday, extinguishes it and throws it into a corner saying, " as this
candle extinguished, let our eyes close and disappear from our enemies
Those with skin diseases and other illnesses, bathed
before sunrise in rivers, lakes and springs with the hope that they would
be cured. Water was believed to be miraculous on that day, healing, protecting
from evil eyes and evil spirits.
Here are several examples of behavior and work on Holy
1 – on this day, one ran, not looking sideways, to wash
before sunrise in swiftly flowing river water. This will make a healthy
body, and wearing shirts inside out will make the body function well.
2 – in the morning, away from anyone's eyes, one washed
with snow so as to be clean all year.
3 – comb hair thoroughly so that there would be no fleas
4 – cobwebs are removed from barns, this cleans piglets,
so they heal easier.
5 – rise early, sweep the house and pour the sweepings
on the boundary with the nearest neighbor. Having done that, return home
without looking back, this will assure a year with no fleas.
6 – on this day one must go to the forest, make an alder
broom and sweep the house with it. Someone should ask, " what are you up
to ?" You answer, "I'm chasing away the fleas, why are you asking me?"
A spot is shown and the fleas all gather there.
7 – rise early but quietly, so that no one hears you.
Fill your apron with wood chips and place in all corners of the house,
then a duck, sitting on eggs will be found.
8 – go to your neighbor and steal a handful of firewood,
this will assure that you will find many birds' nests in summer.
9 – place a handful of salt on a piece of cloth, tie
it and hide it so that no one sees it or touches it during the year. This
helps protect children and animals from evil eyes.
Holy Friday was also held to be an unusual day. People
cast spells, chased witches and other evils. To make insects disappear
from houses, stoves were heated with the herb artemisia and all house bugs
and insects were thrown into the fire. Ashes were removed, taken far away
from the house and dug under.
This day's unusualness is evident in wide beliefs throughout
1 – the house has to be clean by Holy Friday, for if
on this day chimney is swept or cobwebs are removed, Christ's eyes will
be bewitched and the flax harvest will be poor.
2 – if from midnight to noon you do not speak with anyone,
you can expect fulfillment of all your desires.
3 – no laundry is done on this day so that ice does not
destroy the grain fields.
4 – one should not grind with millstones, so that thunder
would not knock.
5 – on this day one should wash up outside, so that in
the spring the water would warm up fast.
In the region of Këdainiai, on Holy Friday, eyes
were covered and pots were smashed. An immediately smashed pot brought
good fortune. People from this region took porridge and buried it in the
fields expecting a good harvest. Women endeavored to bake good bread, so
that family members would be healthy and strong.
Holy Saturday. On this day, no lending took place, so
that the borrower would not take away the good harvest or other successes.
So that witches would not spoil cows' milk on this day, cows were milked
with milk going through a branch of the rowen tree. It was thought that
the rowen tree leaves and red berries will frighten away all evil spirits.
On this day, a bonfire built of old crosses was set in
the church yard. The fire was lit striking a piece of flint and blowing
the sparks into a dry wood fungus. Everyone rushed to snatch the fire and
hurry home with it. To carry the live fire some brought a dried birch fungus,
others a tow rope, a metal can or rag. To keep the fire burning while going
home, it had to be continuously twisted about.
In the eastern regions of the Highlands [ a.k.a. Aukðtaitija
], carriers of the holy flame, would start a small fire outside their property
borders, so that the ills of the year would burn away. Hurrying home with
the flame, they rode around, smoking the fields, to assure a good harvest.
Arriving home, the old fire was put out in the stove and new fire was started
with the Easter flame. Some homemakers, following ancient traditions, kept
the Easter fire burning in the stove till next Easter, Pentecost or at
least till the Sunday after Easter. It was believed that thunder did not
hit the home where the annual Easter flame burned in the stove, for it
brought luck and harmony to the family. Desiring to protect their homes
from disasters, ashes were strewn in the house so that there would be no
fires and in the garden, so that vegetables would grow well. When building
a house, coal from the Easter fires was placed in corners. In the Tvereèius
region tree branches were placed on the burning, holy flame so that snakes
would run away. Ashes were rubbed onto the scalp, to chase away pain.
Blessing of water takes place on Holy Saturday. It was
tradition to bring back holy water in a hurry, so that farm chores would
be done faster that year. On Easter, morning the house, fields, orchards
and barns were all sprinkled with holy water. Some holy water was poured
into wells, lakes and ponds. Old people washed their eyes and skin with
holy water. Homemakers wet cows' udders, vegetable seeds and seedlings.
The sick and dying were also sprinkled with holy water. People in the regions
of Këdainiai and Pasvalis, kept a clay container in the center of
the house, filled with holy water, where fingers were dipped before crossing
themselves, at the beginning and end of the day. Even today holy water
is taken home and widely used and is kept till Pentecost.
The last days of Holy Week were linked with the souls
of the dead, for it was thought that they were loitering about the homes.
In some regions of Lithuania, on Holy Saturday, tables were not cleared
away after meals, churches were not locked to allow the souls to congregate
inside. In the region of Veisiejai, during breakfast on Easter, three teaspoonfuls
of food were poured under the table for the souls. It was thought that
on Holy Friday and Holy Saturday the souls were unconstrained and it was
not proper to speak ill of dead family members.
Traditions of the night of Easter are very interesting,
church rituals are intertwined with early beliefs. In 1933 newspapers wrote
how people went to church Easter night, but did not pray. They dressed
up as scarecrows and jested about. The guards at Christ's tomb were dressed
as soldiers, holding guns and swords. In Samogitia and in other regions,
people blew horns, dressed as devils. The principal disguiser had sooth
on his face, cow horns on his head, with cow's tail hanging from his back,
biting a huge pipe and holding a bottle of vodka in his hands. A masked
woman would stick dead crows under noses of women, asleep in church.
Another type of disguisers wore masks with needles in
the nose, dressed in rags, carrying whips. If they found anyone outside
during the night, they chased them into church.
Before the First World War, throughout Lithuania , food
was blessed on Easter morning. This tradition has remained in the region
of Dzûkija. Easter eggs, salt, bread, cakes, ham, bacon, sausage,
butter and cheese were foods to be blessed. Blessing eggs and bread would
assure plenty of food all year. Butter and cheese were blessed to make
sure that cows would give much milk.
The folks from Kurðënai placed three eggs, red,
yellow and black into a basket, decorated with willow branches, filled
with hay or moss and took the basket to church to be blessed. In Dzûkija,
foods to be blessed were placed in straw baskets with removable covers.
In other regions foods were carried to church in specially woven kerchiefs.
It was believed that if it was a cloudy day, this kerchief should be taken
outside and spread in the middle of the yard – then the clouds would disperse.
After the mass on Easter, some placed foods near Virgin
Mary's altar, while others placed food in the churchyard. After the blessing
of the food, everyone hurried home with the belief that those who got home
first, they will be first in all their endeavors and that their bees will
Having returned with the blessed foods, everyone sat
at the table, laden with traditional foods: eggs, pig's head or roast piglet,
cheese, butter and baked lamb. If there was no baked lamb, there was a
lamb made of butter or sugar placed on top of sprouted oat greens. This
was a symbol of Easter. Before eating began, the family stood around the
table, saying three prayers and wishing peace to the home. Eating began
with eggs. If your egg shell is stronger, you are destined to live longer.
The Easter egg shells were collected and half of them were fed to the hens,
so that they would be good layers. The other half was burned in the stove,
to make sure that trees will bud earlier. Meat bones and remaining egg
shells were dug in the fields, so that mice would not eat the grain and
hail would not be destructive to the grain fields.
In some regions, a tree made from nine or twelve fir
branches, with woven nests to hold Easter eggs, was placed on the Easter
table. It was also decorated with dough birds and colored papers.
It was said that on the first day of Easter, no visiting
should take place till noon. If anyone came before noon, it was said that
he brought flees from his home.
Children visited godparents and relatives to collect
Easter eggs. A child upon entering the house, says nothing, just puts one
finger into his mouth and receives an egg. If he places two fingers, two
eggs are placed in his basket. Giving eggs to the children means that hens
will be prolific layers.
The tradition of egg gathering still exists. In all of
Lithuania, the act of hitting Easter eggs is known and practiced, especially
by men and teenagers. The egg is placed in the palm of the hand with thumb
and forefinger holding the pointed end of the egg, which is the hitting
area. The cracked egg is taken by the person whose egg did not crack in
the process of hitting.
Egg rolling is also popular throughout Lithuania. A thick
tree bark with a smooth inside is placed at an angle and eggs are rolled
down through it. When the egg hits another egg, which had rolled down earlier,
the egg's owner takes possession of both eggs.
[ a.k.a. VELYKË, VELYKØ
Easter eggs were taken to children by the
imaginary Easter woman, who was not to be seen by the children. Children
usually found two Easter eggs, in places like wooden shoes, baskets and
even in bed. These eggs were very different from those that were dyed at
home. Most often mothers exchanged eggs with neighbors or secretly used
STROLLERS and SINGERS while collecting
Children began to wait for the Easter
Woman on Holy Saturday afternoon, prepared egg nests and placed them in
flower gardens, bushes, between wall logs and even on doorsteps. Each child
tried to make most beautiful and colorful nests.
[ a.k.a. LALAUNYKAI ]
Groups of young men on the night of the First
Day of Easter, visit villages, extend greetings and for that are given
numerous gifts. The night was filled with men's compelling voices, travelling
from village to village. This tradition still continues in many villages
These groups are made up of musicians,
singers and a bag carrier, who will carry all the gifts. Their greetings
began with the following words: " dear auntie and uncle, may we entertain
your household", followed by: " Happy Easter Greetings". After this, they
sang songs meant for unmarried girls:
A pear tree stands in the center of the
Under which grows a garden filled with
Young maiden, Anne walked there
Made paths and picked rue.
When gifts were received, they thanked
the owners saying, " may God give you as many piglets to equal the number
of nibbles you gave us". It also happened that the owners gave nothing,
then a spell was put on them: " may your chicken swell under the stove,
like the stove, so that you could not pull them out using even horse's
strength". Girls who refused to receive these strollers – singers, were
wished to remain single and to spend the rest of their lives sitting on
THE DAY of HAIL [ a.k.a.
LEDØ DIENA ]
When their bag was filled with eggs and
other goodies, the strollers – singers would stop at someone's home to
party. They would then select the most beautiful Easter egg, calling its
" Queen of Eggs". If this woman was married,
they crowned her with a crown that they carried, she in turn would place
the crown on her unmarried daughter's head. This second Easter Day's festivity
of strollers – singers, soon became the time of selecting daughters-in-law.
Soon after matchmakers would do the rounds. For this reason young women
tried to give their best Easter eggs to the stroller-singers.
The fourth day of Easter and later the
third day, in the first part of 18th
century, according to ancient pagan traditions, was called ICE DAY, DAY
of HAIL. No work was done on that day, to keep hail from destroying grain
fields. Even on any Wednesday until Pentecost no work was done. This behavior
was honoring the memory of the Goddess Lada. In ancient times, seed oats
and other grains were taken to church to be blessed on this day.
[ a.k.a. VELYKAIÈIAI ]
The egg being the symbol of life and rebirth
of nature is given special meaning in Easter traditions. The tradition
of egg dyeing and exchanging is much older than Christianity. In Lithuania,
eggs were dyed not only before Easter but also before St.George's day and
There were two methods of egg decorating:
drawing designs with wax or scratching designs on dyed eggs. Numerous designs
consisted of blossoms, snakes, wheel and cog, stars, branches of rue, snowflakes
and many others.
Most common dye used was onion skins.
A pot was filled with dry onion skins and water and allowed to soak for
several hours, then brought to a boil, then raw eggs were placed for seven
or ten minutes, later the pot was removed from the heat, but eggs were
left in the dye for some time, to intensify the reddish brown color. Nettles
were used to obtain green color. Nettles were covered with cold water,
then boiled for twenty minutes. Eggs were placed in the strained nettle
dye and boiled. If the solution was nor strained, the eggs would be spotted
Adding alum to the nettle solution intensifies the green color. Red color
was obtained by slicing raw beets, covering with cold water and bringing
to a boil. The red solution was strained and eggs boiled in it. A reddish
yellow color was obtained from a solution made from a mixture of chopped
birch lichen, fir and black alder trees. Very popular black and dark brown
colors were obtained by soaking black alder bark with rusty metal pieces
in boiling water and adding fermented juices of beets or sauerkraut. This
mixture was left to ferment two to three weeks and boiled eggs would be
soaked in it until good color was obtained.
The tradition of swinging on Easter was
practiced throughout Lithuania. Ethnographers believe that swinging had
magical powers to awaken the plant kingdom, which helped grain to sprout
and grow faster. Swings were built in the village outskirts or near forests.
The swing seat could accommodate several people at a time. People swung
so high that some even fell off and were killed instantly. Girls on swings
were swung by boys and for this the boys received many Easter eggs.
On the Second and Third Day of Easter,
it was tradition to pour water on each other. Sometimes young men would
throw young women into water. Once again, this watering forecasted a goodgrain
harvest and a washing away of evils accumulated during winter.
Playing Easter eggs games