LITHUANIAN EATING HABITS AND HOSPITALITY TRADITIONS
Lithuanians have rich eating traditions and maintain strict seating
order at table. The father sits at the end of the table, near the wall.
The eldest son sits at the father's right, while other men sit next to
the son along the wall. Women sit across from the men and mother sits at
the opposite end from the father. This traditional seating is maintained
especially during holidays, when the entire family gathers together.
Should a visitor arrive while eating, he will be asked to join the
family at the table. A visitor from far away is either seated next to father
or in his place, a beggar is seated at the other end of the table, near
Bread is placed in the most honorable place on the table which is
right in front of father. Eating starts with the slicing of bread by the
Father slices and passes the bread with great respect. The first
slice, a corner of the bread was given to the eldest, married son, with
wishes that his firstborn will be a son. Each member of the family took
a slice of bread directly from father's hand and placed it respectfully
on the table. The remaining, unsliced piece of bread remains on the table,
with the cut end facing the most important corner of the house or is facing
the sun. The cut end of the bread was not placed facing the door because
it was believed she would be mad and would walk out of the house. Placing
down on the table was a serious desecration and for that bread's
vengeance appeared as a death in the family.
It was not allowed to break a slice with one hand because it takes
both hands to earn bread.
Lithuanians consider eating a holy event and behavior at table is
like in church, quiet, orderly and reverential. This behavior has come
down through generations,
Should a visitor arrive when the family is at table, the visitor
greets the eaters
with "skanaus" – " bon apetit". If father answers "praðom" –
"you are welcome", it means do join us at the table. However if the answer
is "aèiu" – "thankyou", the visitor is not invited to join in the
An unexpected visitor was always graciously received and even if
the family was not prepared to eat yet, food was soon set out. It consisted
of traditional sausages, curd cheese, honey, eggs and homemade beer. The
visitor did not eat or drink until the host urged him to do so. This urging,
when done right away when food and drink is on the table, is a true sign
of Lithuanian hospitality.
If the table is loaded with all kinds of goodies but there is no
urging to partake in the food, it is said, " there was plenty of everything,
but there was no urging at all from the host".
In earlier times, the host filled his glass with beer or mead, and
greeted guests with these words,
" to your health dear brothers, drink and be merry. Be healthy,
dear visitors". He sprinkled a few drops on the ceiling or on the floor
so that everyone would be in good health and then drank from his glass.
Refilled it again and passed it to the guest. If everyone shared the same
glass, each one greeted each other with these words, " be healthy", and
answered with " to your health". The glass was sent around the table from
the right side because spring seeding was done with grain sprinkled to
the right side, so drinks also go to that side.
This tradition still continues today.
Guests are constantly urged by the host to drink, " drink dear guests,
beer will show his sign". It does not take long for the sign to appear,
for soon there is more talking and singing. Singing is always an important
part of a gathering.
Lithuanians are known for their hospitality. They like to entertain
and be entertained. Expecting guests they go all out preparing all kinds
and amounts of delicacies. The hosts appreciate this statement, " there
was plenty of everything, the only thing missing was bird's milk".
Guests preparing to go, thank, saying " thank you for the delicious
cake, strong beer. Today we ate and drank your goodies, next time we'll
drink mine". The host answers, " don't mention it, please, to your health".
The arrival of guests is announced by the family cat, when she washes
her face with her paw. The guest will come from the direction to which
the cat is facing. Another arrival is forecast by cutlery falling on the
floor, if a knife or spoon falls, a male guest is on his way, if a fork
falls, expect a female guest.