Lithuanian Cultural Center of Philadelphia
Christmas celebrations in Lithuania are rich in ceremony and tradition. Christmas Eve, or Kūčios, is the more symbolic and reflective of the two days. In preparing for the holiday, the house is thoroughly cleaned; unresolved conflicts among friends and family are reconciled; ancestors and recently departed souls are remembered; the dinner table is laid with hay and linen to symbolize the birth of Christ in the manger; and 12 dishes are prepared to represent the 12 apostles.
The physical and spiritual housekeeping is in preparation for Jesus’s birth and the holiness he represents. Lithuanians are superstitious and carrying baggage into Christmas is thought to be unlucky. Similarly, the house is cleaned to make the home more inviting for visiting family and the souls of the dearly departed who visit while everyone is away at midnight Mass.
When the table is set, an extra place setting is added to represent a relative unable to attend Christmas Eve dinner due to distance or other circumstances or to represent a relative who passed away during the year. Table decorations include candles and sprigs from evergreen trees. Not only does the dinner table hay symbolize hay in the manger where Jesus was born, but it also serves as a resting place for departed souls.
The Lithuanian national anthem, “Tautiška Giesmė,” was written by Vincas Kudirka in 1898. The song became Lithuania’s official national hymn in 1919 and is often referred to as “Lithuania, Our Homeland.”
“Tai Graziai Gieda Lakstingalele” (It’s a Beautiful Singing Nightingale) Performed by Rasa Serra
“Aušta Aušrelė” (Dawn)
“Volungėlė” (The Little Golden Oriole) Performed by the Raskila Choir
“Mano Kraštas” (My Land) Performed by Gytis Paškevičius with the Dagilelis Choir
“Sutartinės” (Lithuanian Multi-Part Songs) Narrative by UNESCO
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