Magical Christmas Eve in Lithuania

The customs behind celebrating Christmas in Lithuania comes from a unique mixture of Christian and pagan traditions. The most beloved, important and special celebration is Christmas Eve ( “Kucios” in Lithuanian), the day when all families gather together. No matter how far family members must travel or regardless of difficult obstacles to cross families will find a way to celebrate together. This is simply such a special day that you can’t be away from it! An authentic Lithuanian Christmas table can not lack a stalk of straw placed between a typically white table cloth and the tabletop which represents the manger where baby Jesus was born. It is also a widely common and ancient tradition to leave an empty plate for deceased family members as a spiritual invitation for them to join the family on this special evening. Additionally, any lonely friends are invited because absolutely nobody should have to stay alone during Christmas Eve! The dinner feast consists of 12 plates that correspond to the 12 apostles of Jesus. None of the traditional Christmas Eve dishes must contain meat or typically even dairy products. No Christmas table is complete without “kuciukai”, traditional Lithuanian pastries made from leavened dough normally soaked in poppy milk, as well as cranberry kisielius, a thick drink made from fresh cranberry juices thickened with starch. The other popular dishes include various fish plates with herring, salmon, perch and pike. Additionally, some of the customary dishes should include local mushrooms, beetroots and different vegetable salads. Everyone is expected to try all 12 dishes and no one must leave the table before the dinner is over. After the abundant meal, a magical time starts for spells, recounting family stories, discussions about dreams and time to play various Christmas games as well as exchanging gifts. Sometimes even the generous Kalėdų Senelis (the Christmas Grandfather) might come for a visit. At the end of the evening, many families also attend Midnight Mass, known in Lithuanian as the “Shepard’s Mass” which concludes this magical evening of celebrations.

This year’s celebration will of course be slightly different for many Lithuanians- possibly even virtual for some- because of Covid but still none the less hearty nor losing any of the spiritual substance of Christmas.

Linksmų Šv. Kalėdų! Merry Christmas!