THE FEAST DAY of ST.GEORGE ( Ðv. Jurgis IV, 23 )

According to legend of the Catholic Church, St. George was a martyred knight. He is Lithuania’s second guardian. The name George spread throughout Lithuania from the Eastern regions of Greater Lithuanian territories, before official Lithuanian baptism. In the 16th - 18th centuries , Lithuanian St. George’s feast day customs found a rich, local heritage.
Ethnographically, it is possible to select this Feast’s two complexes, put into fewer words agrarian labors and widely written cattle rearing. J.Lasickis, in his work, published in 1615, " About Samogitian false Christian gods and other disgraces", discusses the  agrarian half of this holiday. He writes, " on St. George’s day they made offerings to Pergrubis, who was believed to be the God of all plants. The ecclesiast , whom he referred to as the chief of the rural district, holds in his right hand a wide bottomed goblet, full of beer and having called by name a God, sings the following in his honor, " You chase away winter, you return the pleasantness of Spring, fields and forests turn green".
Having finished the song, he drinks the beer, holding the goblet with his teeth and throws the empty goblet over his head. The goblet is picked up, filled again with beer, and is sent around those present, who continue singing, honoring God Pergrubis. The rites of spring holidays are carried on in like fashion in Lithuania Minor, Ásrutis, Ragainë, Kurða, written 
about in 1278, by M.Strijovskis in, " Polish, Lithuanian, Samogitian and Russian Chronicle". Example, " In spring, when snow melts, grass appears, several villages prepare a quarter or a whole barrel of rye malt to brew beer….As everyone gathers in one house, the ecclesiast picks up a container of beer, raises it, saying, "our Almighty God 
Pergrubis! You chased away winter, doubled greenery on all the land, we are now imploring you to increase the growth of our grain, to destroy all weeds". He then picks up the goblet with his teeth, drinks it empty, throws it over his head, not touching it with his hands. Another official of the rural district, standing behind, catches the goblet, quickly fills it with beer and sets it in front of the ecclesiast. He picks up the goblet in his hand, requests Perkûnas, God of Thunder, to curb hail, lightning, rain, storms and destructive clouds. Everyone present starts drinking after this, the third request to Almighty God of Light - Þvaiþdiklá, to supply plenty of light for fields of grain, hay fields, flowers and animals. Then prayers continue to the fourth God, Pilvièius, so that the harvest would be gathered properly and barns are filled. These rituals continue until offerings are made to fifteen Gods".
In the end of the 16th century, J.Bretkûnas describes similarly, spring holiday rituals…..
"people in the region of Suduva, every year, celebrated two holidays. First was called holiday of Pergrubijus, celebrated in the spring, before plowing fields. People gathered from different villages, brought several barrels of beer that were purchased with money coming from sales of products that grew in one common field".
At the start of 19th - 20th centuries, there are numerous writings about ritual bread baking, offerings and ritual eating. This is again connected to agrarian traditions, assuring a better harvest. In the morning of St. George’s day, it was tradition to take one or two loaves of bread, in which five eggs were baked, carry them around the fields three to twelve times. Then one loaf was dug in the field, requesting a good harvest. The remaining loaf was broken into the same number of pieces as there were family members, and eaten. In the 
region of Dieveniðkës, Eastern Lithuania, at the end of last century, on the Eve of
 St. George’s day, the owner plowed the first furrow in the field, he had a sash tied around his waist with a linen bag filled with bread and salt. Upon return from plowing, distributed the bread with salt, so that in next plowing the plow would not break and family would not run short of bread. Again, in the same region, on St. George’s day, the owner took the ritual bread roll to the rye field, put it on the ground and bent his ear towards the earth to listen to what the rye was talking about. If he expected the rye harvest  to be good, while listening he heard a voice from the earth, "move away, I will sow here". If that year’s gain harvest was to be a poor one, there was no sound from the rye field. Then the owner carried the ritual bread around the field, later carried it to church and placed it on St. George’s altar. Orchard growth and its harvest had to be awakened on this day, by a boy  born at sunrise on this day and named George. Near Raseiniai, in Samogitia, at the end of 19th century, as orchards were in bud, such child was treated to delicious foods and at sundown was undressed naked and walked about the orchard, making all kinds of promises.
Another wider known St. George’s day ritual complex is attributed to animals’ first   driving outside. 17th and 18th centuries’ joint  M.Pretorius’ writings, "Prussian interests or Prussian theater", animals’ first drive outdoors is described, "when people take animals outside for the first time, they behave this way, the owner alone does that from barns near gardens, he walks three times around the animals, praying to God to protect the herd. He also thanks for the herd’s life till now and requests St .George to keep dogs, bears, foxes and wolves away from the herd".
That day, no one eats, fasting continues until the herd is brought back.
When the cattle are herded into barns, food is set out. The owner is first to have a drink, then sends the drink around to those present, then everyone sings and starts eating.
After eating, everyone prays again. Then frolicking and fooling around, the happier they become, the better it is. This is done so that the animals will be always in good spirits and health. M.Pretorijus relates that Lithuanians during horse blessing rituals sacrificed a rooster to Goddess Þemyna. While eating the cooked rooster meat, beer was poured on the ground, the following words were spoken to the Goddess, "Þemyna, be happy riding our horses". At the rituals’ end, the owner dug the roosters feet in the barn saying, 
" I will have good mares from these feet and bones".
D.Poðka, in his 1823 writings, " About ancient pagan, religious rites in Lithuanian and Samogitian principalities", relates about God Ganiklá. " This God, in both principalities, is honored and remembered until now, however now Christians have given away the care of cattle, horses and other animals to St. George, in whose honor, every April 23rd they carry to church offerings of new born calves and other offerings. Also, among country folk, the following prayer is repeated everyday by landowners and shepherds, "St. George look after grazing horses and cattle". In some regions, at the end of 19th century, remained the tradition of taking to church offerings of lambs, calves, baby goats and piglets.
 Until middle 20th century, in some Lithuanian regions remained the tradition of herding animals outdoors on April 23rd. The entire family gathered to do so. The owner walked 
at the head of the herd carrying a plate, covered with a linen towel, the dish contained a pair of eggs and a candle on the edge. His wife followed him, carrying incense, behind her walked a shepherd with branches of juniper and willow in his hands. All three of them walked around the herd, the wife incensing , the shepherd swinging the branches three times. After that, the wife took the lighted candle off the plate, using it rubbed the animals’ necks, loins, stomachs and cows’ udders, so that they would not be attacked by wild animals and witches would not take away the cows’ milk. The ritual eggs were given to the shepherd, one ritual branch was stuck into the barn roof, near the door so that the God of the Forest, Miðkinis, protects the animals from getting lost in the woods. The unlit candle was placed on the barnyard gate and remained there until the animals were herded back into the barn, after that was taken into the house.
Animals herded outdoors for the first time were stroked on their backs with a willow branch, covered with pussy willows. This was done in the hope that the animals will remain healthy, fat and safe from wolves. On the first day of herding, even shepherds tended animals with willow branches and upon return from the pastures, placed the willows under the barn roof, to assure the animals’ safe return. In the region of Akmenë, 
before herding animals outdoors, a candle was picked up and carried three times around the herd. Shepherds also sprinkled holy water or just plain water, while herding the animals, washed horses in lakes and rivers.
At the beginning of 20th century, in regions of Ðvenèionys, Ignalina, Tvereèius, special bread was baked, called "for animals". A small roll was baked for each animal or one huge loaf of bread with as many groves in it as there were animals. Pieces of this loaf, were taken to beggars, sitting near churches, so that they pray for the animals.
Eggs played an important role in the ritual of first outdoor herding. A pair of eggs was placed, one on the inside, the other on the outside of the barn doorstep. In other regions, an egg was placed in each corner of the bar. After a while, one egg was given to the shepherd and another was taken to church. Sometimes both eggs were given to the shepherd, so that sheep would bear twin lambs. In the region of Ukmergë, the shepherd received a bag with two white and two motley eggs, was instructed to eat the white eggs and to return the motley eggs, unbroken. If the shepherd did as was told, the owner knew it would be a good year with animals. In the region of Tilþë, the elder herdsman walked several times around the herd, throwing an egg at it. The animal, which was touched by the egg, was allotted to wolves, he would not be protected and when wolves took it away, the entire village reimbursed its owner. In other regions, scissors and an egg were dug under the barn doorsill.
Upon the shepherd’s return, he was sprinkled with cold water by the owner’s wife, so that cows would be good milkers, grass would grow abundantly, summer would not be too rainy. The wife then invited all shepherds to sit at table, eat butter, cheese, cottage cheese and eggs. In Dzûkija, south eastern region of Lithuania, on the eve of St. George’s day, young men walked around houses greeting and wishing all the best, also requesting eggs of many colors ( eggs were dyed for St. George’s day ), sang and danced. Men, whose name was George, decorated their hats with ears of grain.
Here are most interesting, characteristic Lithuanian beliefs and witchings, connected to St. George’s day :        
1-  as cows are herded out for the first time, a piece of turf should be placed at the gate, with two eggs placed at the turf’s end. If the eggs do not get broken, animals will not die that year. Having walked across the turf, they will be fat like the piece of turf.
2-  when sheep are herded back from the fields, a sash should be hung in the gate and sheep enter through it, then sheep will always return home, in line, like the sash.
3-  Herding animals outside the first time, place two eggs and a pair of trousers in the middle, then evil eyes will not stare at the cows.
4-  when horses were taken outside for the first time, an axe was hewed into the barn doorsill from the inside, a saw was placed, with teeth up and horses and horses were led across it. This was done to prevent robbery of horses.
5-  to keep animals from bewitchings, mercury was poured into a horn, through a small hole, which then was sealed.
6-  to keep the devil from carrying lambs, the lambs were smoked with wolves’ dung as they were led out for the first time.
7-  shepherds took flour and cooked porridge into which they added butter. The porridge was eaten with thin pieces of wood, constantly mentioning the name George. This was a way of feeding wolves, so that they do not bother animals. 
8-  shepherds were not allowed to sit on the stove when putting on shoes, to take knives into their hands, so that wolves do not carry away the sheep.
9-  to make shepherds rise early and not nap when herding, they were told to wash with water from oxen foot prints or water from animals’ drinking through.
10-  do not loan a sieve on this day, if you do, carry it under lock and key.
11-  between new and ancient ritual styles of this day, it was not good to throw out linen, because the animals will not feed, will die.
12-  so that the linden tree blossoms  profusely, this day hang a white linen cloth on its branches.
13-  to assure an abundant apple crop, make sure that apple trees are planted on this day.
14-  in the morning of this day, pour the tree sap onto the ground, because witches usually bathe in it.
15-  it was said that in the evening of this day, comb your hair and go to bed, your loved one will come in a dream and will kiss you.
16-  grassy wreaths were dropped into water. Your lover will come from the direction to which the wreath floats.
17-  on the evening of this day, sow poppy seeds under your pillow, you’ll marry whom you dream of.

People guessed: 
1-  if the morning of St. George’s day is very starry, it will be a good year for animals.
2-  if the day is cold, it will be a good year overall.
3-  if snows and freezes, there will be tons of hay.

In Lithuania, even today on St. George’s day, eggs and moneys are offered for animals.