LITHUANIAN CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS
 
 
THE FEAST OF ST. MARK ( a.k.a. Ðventas Morkus )


St. Mark, one of the evangelists, friend of Peter, the apostle. He is held to be the guardian of earth and harvests. His name is closely bound with love, peace and harmony.
 St. Markís repentance procession is carried out in all the Catholic world. In 1525, in Vilnius it was decided to organize a procession from the Cathedral to the Church of St. George. In Lithuania this St.Mark is regarded as guardian of earthís harvest, because of that processions in his honor take place not only in churches but throughout villages. 
The feast day of St. Mark is the time of greatest entreaties. On the morning of the day, set to honor this Saint, in many Lithuanian villages, peasants gathered near the farthest village Cross, singing the All Saintsí Litany and praying. All the village Crosses were visited, with stops near them with special prayers. Requests were made to God to protect fields from storms, hail, draught and thunder. A Mass was held in cemeteries, ending the procession, which walked around all the cemetery crosses, stopped in its center to pray for community dead, sing again the Litany of All Saintsí, ask for a good harvest.
This was a chance for men of the community to discuss common village works, cow herdings, fence building and other chores. It is most important that even today in some villages of Dzûkija, this tradition is still carried on. Attention had been paid to the ban of eating meat in order to have a good harvest. Some, even today pay attention to the ban of "not touching the earth", no plowing, no digging, otherwise hail would destroy crops. Other agrarian works, sowing, fertilizing, watering were not avoided. Ancient beliefs show that this was a very holy day, when only household chores were carried out, delicious foods were eaten and there was much praying. People remember that to properly observe St. Markís feast day, one should dress up, do no heavy work. If one does not pay attention to this observance, ice will destroy the grain fields. In the morning of St. Markís day, one man dug open two potato holes, this caused rains to flatten all the grain fields in the summer. This shows that earth, manís nourisher, attains special meaning. People avoided touching the earth as if giving her the right to rest before the upcoming hard work during harvest time. There are several exceptions. Women sow carrots on this day, so that they grow larger and be tastier. It was also thought, that it was good to sow peas on this day. Young women sowed rue on this day, sprinkled the seed with sooth, to keep chicken away from scratching in the garden. Young women used the power of St. Markís feast day for other goals, cast lots to find out about their future. At the beginning of the 20th century, on this day, young women wove three wreaths, one for themselves, the other two were given male names. All three wreaths were dropped into the well and sprinkled  with hemp seed. At dusk they looked intensely into the well to be able to see their man. All this was done secretly. It was also said, that on this day, girls should eat only carrots. Going to bed, should write male names on twelve pieces of paper, tie three pieces into each corner of their kerchief and place it under their pillow. Upon arising next morning they should grab a corner of the kerchief, untie it and pick one piece of paper. It was believed that she would marry that young man, whose name she selected.
In villages in Dzûkija, in the morning of April 25th , people still gather near the village Crosses, singing, praying and asking for a good harvest. All the walkings end in cemeteries.          
 
 

 
 
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