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The James T. Callow Folklore Archive

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CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION IN LITHUANIA IS VERY ELABORATE. ON CHRISTMAS
EVE, THE TABLE IS SET WITH A WHITE TABLECLOTH, 12 KINDS OF PREPARED
FISH AND IN THE CENTER--A HANDFUL OF STRAW UNDER THE TABLECLOTH, AND
DIRECTLY ON THAT, "PLOTKELES". "PLOTKELES" IS SIMILAR TO COMMUNION,
ONLY SQUARE, A PIECE OF SIZEABLE SIZE (MOSTLY 6 BY 4 INCHES). IN
LITHUANIAN, IT IS CALLED "KRISTAUS LAISKAS"--CHRIST'S LETTER. IT IS
A LETTER ANNOUNCING HIS BIRTH AND THAT HE WILL SAVE US.
WHEN EVERYONE IS SEATED, THEY SAY A PRAYER, AND THEN THE FATHER TAKES
ONE OF THE "LETTERS", HANDS IT TO THE MOTHER WHO BREAKS OFF A PIECE,
THEN TO THE NEXT OLDEST, ETC...SO ON DOWN THE LINE. THEN THE MOTHER
LETS EVERYONE BREAK OFF A PIECE FROM HER PIECE AND SO ON...
AFTER THE PASSING AROUND OF THE LETTER, THE EATING STARTS. THIS IS
THE ONE TIME THAT WE ARE NOT ALLOWED, BY LITHUANIAN CUSTOM, TO EAT
MEAT. WE PREPARE FISH 12 DIFFERENT WAYS: SMOKED HERRING, PICKLED
HERRING, WHITE FISH, OR ANY OTHER KINDS OF FISH. FISH AND VEGETABLES
AS MUCH AS WE WANT--FOR DURING THE DAY WE ARE NOT SUPPOSED
TO EAT ANYTHING AT ALL. THERE ARE TO BE 12 VARIATIONS OF EACH FOOD:
12 FISH, 12 VEGETABLES, 12 FRUIT, 12 CAKES.
AFTER THE FISH AND VEGETABLES, THEN STARTS THE FRUITS AND SWEETS.
MOST OF THE CAKES ARE HOME BAKED, THE FRUITS MADE INTO A PUNCH OR A
FRUIT-BOWL.
TO FINISH OFF THE MEAL, THERE ARE THE TRADITIONAL "SLIZIKAI"--TASTE
JUST LIKE BREAD STICKS, ONLY THEY'RE SMALL AND ROUND. YOU PUT THEM
IN SWEET MILK (IN AMERICA--DILUTED PET MILK) AND THAT IS HOW YOU EAT
THEM.
AFTER DINNER, THERE ARE THE PRESENTS OPENING AND AFTER THAT, TIME TO
GO TO CHURCH.
WHEN YOU FIRST WALK INTO THE CHURCH, EVERYTHING IS TOTALLY DARK.
BUT AT EXACTLY MIDNIGHT ALL THE CANDLES ARE LIT, THE CHIMES AND BELLS
START RINGING, AND THE CONGREGATION BEGINS TO SING. THERE IS A
PROCESSION AROUND THE CHURCH 3 TIMES; THEN THE PROCESSION OF THE
PRIEST, ALTAR BOYS AND GIRLS (THROW FLOWER PETALS IN FRONT OF THE
PRIEST) STOP IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH'S CRIB AND BEGIN TO PRAY. HE
PRAYS FOR THE POPE, THE PRIESTS AND NUNS, FOR THE PEOPLE , AND FOR
THE LITHUANIAN NATION (IN AMERICA, SO THAT THEIR FREEDOM WILL BE
RESTORED) (IN LITHUANIA AT THE PRESENT, THEY ARE UNABLE TO CELEBRATE
IN CHURCH). THEN HE BLESSES THE CONGREGATION WITH HOLY WATER AND THE
MASS BEGINS.
CHRISTMAS DAY IS USUALLY THE VISITING DAY OF FRIENDS AND RELATIVES.
WHEN THE PEOPLE USED TO VISIT, THEY ALWAYS BROUGHT SOMETHING ALONG,
EITHER SOME CAKES, OR CANDY OR A BOTTLE OF WINE AND A LOAF OF BREAD.
IT WAS CONSIDERED A DISGRACE TO GO VISITING AND NOT BRING SOMETHING.
THE CELEBRATING USUALLY LASTED FOR 3 DAYS, BUT NOW--FOR ONLY 1 OR 2
DAYS.

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; SOUTHFIELD, ASSUMED

Keyword(s): ABSTINENCE FROM MEAT ; FOOD CUSTOM

Subject headings: CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 24 Christmas Eve
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 25 Christmas Also see F642, below.
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 24 Christmas Eve Menus
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 24 Christmas Eve Oplatki
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 21 solstice to March 20 Lights and candles
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 21 solstice to March 20 Straw
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 21 solstice to March 20 Gifts, gift giving at Christmas
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 21 solstice to March 20 Church
BELIEF -- Sign Color P680.1

Date learned: 03-25-1972

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