Traditional Christmas Greeting: "Linksmu Kaledu"
Location: Eastern Europe Baltic
Tree Type: Traditional

Decorations:

  • The ornaments (Staudinukai) are made from white straw. In Lithuania, the straw is bleached to attain the white color.
  • The ornaments on the museum's tree are made from white plastic soda straws made by one woman, the late Rose Maziliauskas. These ornaments are made into very complex geometric patterns and shapes; No lights are on the tree. On top of the tree is a straw cross that symbolizes the faith of the Lithuanian nation.
  • Other decorations may include eggshells, feathers, and nutshells, birds (Riesutas) made from walnut shells with wings made from birch bark, feathers, paper or flower-like aureoles surrounding centers of shiny beads, metal or mirrors. There also may be straw crosses.
  • Originally the Lithuanian Christmas tree wasn't a tree at all but evergreen boughs, hung with the bleached straw ornaments and placed in the house.

Traditions: The Christmas season begins with Advent, the four weeks before Christmas. In Lithuania this was also a time to stay in the home after dark because evil spirits were very active at this time of year. Children and young adults were these creatures favorite prey. Christmas Eve is a time of magic and secrecy. It is thought that the spirits of the dead return home on this night.

At sunset, a special meal (Kucios) is served. Before anyone sits down at the table they must be clean both in body and soul, at peace with the neighbors and free of debts. On the table is spread fresh sweet hay as a reminder of the manger. The hay is covered with a pure white tablecloth, which is only used on this day. A crucifix and a plate containing blessed wafers (Plotkele) are placed in the center of the table, and candles are placed on the table as well. An empty place is left at the table if a family member has died during the year.

On Christmas morning, the children receive a visit from Father Christmas (Kaledu Senelis). Several costumed helpers attend to Father Christmas, and is dressed in a fur coat that is inside out. Who has a flaxen beard. He carries a sack filled with grain. In the house, Father Christmas scatters grain into the corner of honor behind the table (krikstasuolis). In order for the children to receive their gifts they must perform a song or dance.