LITHUANIAN CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS

 
 
 
NEW YEAR ( a.k.a. Naujieji Metai I, 01 )


New Year - conditional start of the Calendar year. Ancient Lithuanian, national holidays calendar, shows that the beginning of the New Year during ancient times had no fixed date. According to ethnographersí thinking, the abundant agrarian rites with sun and fire elements of worship, winterís burial, preparation for spring works traditions could signify the New Year start. Later the new Year was identified with Easter, which is bound with plant vegetation and start of outdoor work.
During last centuries, the yearís start was celebrated between December 24th and January 6th . December 24th - Kuèios, Christmas Eve, an important moment of the calendar year, when it meets with the shortest day and longest night of the year. Christmas marked the end of the old year and the start of the new. S.Daukantas wrote, "lads dragged a log through villages, later set it on fire, so that the new year would be easier, with less work.
January 1st , as New Yearís day, arrived in Lithuania from the Christian West, not earlier than 19th century. L.Jucevièius described New Yearís holiday among country and city folk, as a day of greetings and wishes. People believed that greetings issued at the beginning of the year, have magic power and are fulfilled. Many young people walked throughout villages, greeted everyone and wished them good crops, were entertained and received gifts. Most of them were dressed as good and evil spirits, beggars and animals. The symbol of death, "Giltinë" would jump on the oldster, old year and using his scythe, try to destroy him. All family members met to celebrate on New Yearís Eve, drank and ate. Men ran outside, talked nonsense, wrestled to see who is strongest, fell into the snow, but were not upset with each other. They also shot into the air. Young people revel all night, awaken small children at midnight so they would not oversleep their good fortune. In the morning, they go to church and greet each other after leaving church. Young men greeting young women wished them a new spinning wheel, a new shuttle, good luck and a lover. Young women greeting young menn, wished them a lovely girl, a bottle of whiskey, saying, "this year you walked wearing bast shoes, wishing you rides next year, wearing shoes. The young men danced all night with pretty girls, sso they would do so all year with them. It is important at the stert of the New Year to behave in the same fashion as you would want to the rest of the year. If you are behind in your work on the first day of the year, you will be late the rest of the year. No mending of clothes on this day, no borrowing, for you will be experiencing shortages throughout the year. Women aquired new clothes for New Year. Remembering bad deeds of the old year meant cleansing the soul. Family members were kind to each other, did not scold, were quiet and drank no alcihol. Children too, behaved well. Man and wife shared an apple, in order to erase all their disagreements and to be congenial. In Samogitija, there was the tradition of detroying last yearís evils by burning bundles of straw. New Yearís celebration had foods similar to those of Kuèia, Christmas Eve supper, however, meat dishes were also an important part, which meant an abundance of meat throughout the New Year. This New Yearís meal was called the Fat Kuèia or Small Kuèia. New Yearís Eve was also time of casting and drawing lots, mostly associated with weddings:
1-  a girl alone in her room, pours a pinch of ashes into a glass of water, stirrs and looks to see if a male form is on the bottom. If there is, she will marry in the New Year.
2-  girls ready for marriage, pull a tree branch out of a pile. If the branch has many ramifications, it means sheíll marry a rich man.
3-  some girls, at midnight light twelve candles in the dark pantry, place a mirror among them. Stare in the mirror until they see a male face, which means marriage this coming year. If no face appears, they will spend another year working in the grain fields.
4-  girls lie on their backs on the floor, head towards the outside door, raises her foot and throws her shoe over her head. If the shoe lands facing the door, she will be leaving home in the new year, will marry.
5-  the girls pick up a handful of nuts, if there is an even number of nuts, there will be a wedding.
6-  girls prepare delicious foods, lock their room and ask their future man to come in and share the food with her. She marries him, who enters.
7-  during the night, two tow bunches are set on fire together, one is called by the girlís name, the other by her manís name. If the bunches join while burning, means a wedding.
8-  a comb or padlock is placed under the girlís pillow before New Year. He who will comb her hair and unlock the door in her dream, will become her husband.
9-  the girl would have several of her loverís hair. She would place his and her hair together on the table and set it on fire. If her loverís hair twists and turns while burning - theyíll marry. If not - no wedding.
10-  the girl scatters oats outside. He who comes, in a dream to harvest the oats, will be her husband.
11-  the girl, meeting a man on the eve, asks his name and he asks her name.
12-  take a thin glass container, fill with water, place it on cigarette paper, drop a wedding ring into it and look for figures formed at the bottom, which will foretell the future.
13-  at midnight, a glass filled with water is placed near a mirror. A dead personís wedding ring is dropped into the glass and stirred with stork feathers. While stirring, a face of the new husband may appear in the center of the ring.  
14-  nine days before New Year, every evening count nine stars, on the ninth night, place a towel on the head, stand in front of the dark window and expect to see your future husband.
15-  upon first seeing the new moon, a girl should not move. She should look what is under her feet, a stone or a sliver of wood. Pick it up, keep it until the last day of the year. Place it under her pillow. In her dream, on New Yearís Eve, she will see her future.
16-  she should make twelve cards with names on them, mix the cards, place them under her pillow, when awakened pull out a card from under the pillow. He, whose name is on the card, will be her husband.
There are many witchings of ones fate which take place also at midnight on New Yearís Eve.
1-  crumble a piece of paper and set it on fire. Look at it to see what its shadow portrays.
    First imagination is fatal. If the burned paper looks like a wagon - means a trip; if like a  house, youíll have another home; if like a casket, death.
2-  pour water into a bowl, place cards with various words on them, into the water. Place a candle on a box and place it into the bowl. The card near which the candle will stop, her words will determine your fate.
3-  on the Eve, several people will set dry tree branches in the snow. If in the morning someoneís branch has fallen over, he will die before the next New Year.
4-  if during New Year there are bubbles in a spoonful of sweetened water, it means that person has a long life.
5-  going to sleep before New Year, pour salt on the corner of the table nearest the bed. If the salt is wet in the morning, you will die that New Year, if the salt is dry, you will continue living.
6-  pour liquid lead or wax into water and check what shapes have formed. A wheel means a trip, cradle a child, gun an army, cross or coffin means death.
7-  place several items on the table, cover with plates. Each item has its meaning, ring -weddding, knife - accident, pencil - studies, candle - death, wreath - honor, mirror - splendor, bread - satiety, bird - peace and love, toy - newborn. Each family member turns over three plates, found objects foretell the future.
 
On New Yearís day these are characteristic conjectures:
1-  should a woman be a first visitor, it will be an unlucky year. If itís a man, a lucky year. If a Jew, a very lucky year.
2-  if there are many magpies in the garden, there will be many visitors during the year.
3-  if in the morning, the garden is covered with frost, it will be a good year, but if there is fog, there will be many deaths.
4-  if the sun rises and shines brightly, it will be a good year, if not bright, a bad year.
5-  snow and blizzard means a bumper crop year.
6-  if it snows in huge snowflakes, cows will give much milk.
7-  if it is very cold on New Yearís day, It will be very warm on Easter.
All these New Yearís witchings and conjectures are most often borrowed from the longest night - Kûèios, Christmas Eve.
 

 
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