How Lithuanians chase winter away?

Everybody knows about the carnivals of Venice and Brazil. However, has anyone besides Lithuanians ever heard of the festival of Užgavėnės. It is an old Lithuanian tradition with deep archaic pagan roots celebrated on the Tuesday exactly 7 weeks before Easter to mark the end of winter and the beginning of the Earth’s new life cycle. Every year thousands of Lithuanians put on homemade masks with grotesque and deformed appearances which represent the Witch (Ragana) or the Devil (Velnias) or even the Grim Reaper (Giltine) to scare the winter away. The people march through the streets, dance with strangers and eat pancakes (Blynai) to celebrate Užgavėnės during the period before the fasting of Lent starts. The biggest celebrations take place in the central squares and streets of all the towns and cities and involve the burning of a giant human-like figure known as Morė, a female effigy of winter made with straw. Her death corresponds to the death of winter and the birth of spring. It’s believed that the bonfire could burn the bad luck of the past year and all that embodies sorrow, pain and anger. Not less important is the fight between the hard-working, slim-figured Kanapinis and the lazy and fat Lasininis representing the fight between dark and light, as well as the transition from winter to spring. Guess who that winner is!!? On that day all Lithuanian homes smell of pancakes (Blynai) made from rye, wheat or buckwheat flour or sometimes even from potatoes all served with an abundance of toppings including sour cream, cranberry or blueberry jam, or a mushroom sauce. Blynai are considered to symbolise the Sun and its return during the springtime. You are obliged to eat plenty of pancakes on this day so as to not be hungry the rest of the year! It is also believed that the more pancakes you eat, the healthier and wealthier you will become!

Let the bonfire of Užgavėnės burn away the bad luck of the past year!