Vėlinės-the day when the souls come to visit the earth

On the first days of November in Lithuania, there prevails a peaceful and quiet atmosphere as All Souls’ Day (Vėlinės) is widely celebrated. This day is less noisy and flashy than Mexican “El dia de Los Muertos” and unlike in Sicily Lithuanian dead relatives don’t bring gifts and sweets to children but during this day the connection between the living ones and the deceased ones is very strong.

All the country honours the memory of the dead praying for their souls, visiting the graves of relatives and lighting candles on them as well as on the abandoned old graves or the ones belonging to honourable Lithuanian personalities. A visit to any cemetery is spectacular and magic that evening as most of the graves shine from candlelight.

Traditionally it was believed that souls come to visit the earth on this day and a special meal used to be left for them. Almost until the early 20th century there existed the tradition of sitting by the family grave and eating, as well as inviting poor people to share the meal. In Eastern Lithuania there existed a custom on the evening of all Saints’ day to place some food on the grave overnight so that the poor and needy ones could eat the next day. It was believed that when the souls of the dead visited the earth they come past midnight of all Saints’ day and lead the relatives to the church to pray. In Lithuanian villages, until the mid-19th century, there was a tradition to heat the house a lot on the eve of all Souls’ Day so that returned souls of deceased family members could properly warm up.

Nowadays the 1st and 2nd of November, the day of All Saints and the day of All Souls are official holidays. These days everything is closed, big cities become half-empty, roads become packed with cars, everybody heads to their native towns and villages, families reunite to go to the cemeteries, to light candles for their beloved deceased ones and to celebrate the special day of the year when the distance between two “worlds” becomes almost invisible.