Christmas in Lithuania: Christmas Eve Preparations and Ceremonies
Lithuanians make every effort to return home for Christmas Eve, even if it means traveling long distances. People prepare for the evening’s festivities by bathing, putting on their best clothes, and giving their homes a thorough cleaning. They also cook both the Christmas Eve meal and the Christmas Day meal, since according to custom, no work should be done on December 25. The family strews the dining table with straw over which is placed a white tablecloth. The hay reminds everyone that Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable (see also Yule straw). Plates are often set for family members who could not attend. Plates with a candle in the center are also set for those who have recently died. Some people observe the tradition of waiting until the first evening star appears in the sky to begin the meal (see also Star of Bethlehem).
In Lithuania both Christmas Eve and the Christmas Eve meal share the same name: Kucios. Before eating the meal Lithuanians say a prayer and observe a ceremonial blessing involving the use of wafers. The father begins by offering his wafer to his wife and wishing her a joyful Christmas. She breaks off a piece and says "God grant that we are all together again next year.” Then she extends her wafer to her husband and they repeat the words and actions. Afterwards everyone at the table exchanges wafers and greetings with every other person present. This ceremony also gives people a chance to play a game of luck. In breaking the wafer, whoever is left with a bigger piece in their hand will have better fortune in the coming year. Naturally, people try to manipulate this exchange so that they will be left with the larger piece of wafer.