As today is Easter Sunday, a day celebrated by millions worldwide, we are revisiting a particularly relevant entry, originally published on January 31 2010, from our extensive Photo of the Week archive. Written by our local connection in Lithuania, Kestas Lukoskinas, it provides an unrivalled insight into a Lithuanian Easter tradition little known outside of its native land. Sveiki sulaukę velykų (Happy Easter) from everyone here at The Travel Word.
This photo shows a traditional family celebration on them morning of Easter in Lithuania and held in the midst of the awakening fields of the Lithuanian countryside. Sometimes something absolutely simple, such as a breakfast, can be seen from an entirely new perspective and revealed as unique, individual and precious.
Easter in Lithuania is, for most locals, the second biggest festival after Christmas. To this day, it is a family event that combines both Christian celebration and age-old Lithuanian tradition. According to the old ways, Easter marks the rejuvenation of nature. In years gone by, the festival had a fixed date – on the spring equinox. Around that time the temperature rises above freezing and green starts coming back into the world. This means the end of the cold season and the return of life. For people who make their living through farming, this is hugely important.
Lithuanian Catholics go to church for Easter Mass and, afterwards, place food near the altar of the Virgin Mary or in the churchyard. The food is then blessed and everyone hurries home with it as the belief is that those who get home the quickest will be favoured for the rest of the year.
Having returned with the freshly-blessed foods, everyone sits at a table laden with traditional Easter fare: eggs, pig’s head or roast piglet, cheese, butter and baked lamb. If there’s no baked lamb to be had, there will be a lamb made of butter or sugar placed on top of sprouted oat greens, a symbolic representation of Easter and the cycle of nature. Before everyone eats, the family stands around the table, says three prayers and wishes peace to the home.
The first morsel at an Easter breakfast is always an egg. But before eating, the family competes to find the strongest egg. Everybody makes a choice and hits his or her egg against those chosen by other family members. The last person with an unbroken shell is the winner and, according to tradition, will be strong all year.
As a symbol of a new life, the agg is of utmost importance in the traditional Lithuanian Easter. As is common in other parts of the world, people dye and decorate eggs, but often make use of traditional techniques by employing herbs, wax or onion skin to provide colour and texture. There are lots of approaches to egg painting, but the most common is to use natural materials and different patterns, usually symbolising different aspects of nature such as plants, celestial bodies and the circle of life.
Easter events occur all around Lithuania at this time of year – in the cities or villages – and visitors are always welcome to participate.