Christmas in Lithuania: Christmas Day
In past times people honored Christmas Day - Kaledos in Lithuanian - by scrupulously avoiding all forms of work. This meant that Christmas dinner had to be prepared the day before. In times past many householders slaughtered their pigs at Christmas time, and pig’s head was a customary dish for Christmas dinner (see also Boar’s Head). Upon waking, family members would take the straw that had lain on the table during the Christmas Eve feast and give it to their cows, sheep, and oxen — all animals that might have been present in the stable where Jesus was born. Before they distributed the hay they examined it. If it had shed most of its grain, then that meant the family could expect a bountiful harvest in the year to come.
The weather on Christmas Day was thought to predict the weather on Easter Day. If snow covered the ground on Christmas Day, Easter Day was sure to be green. On the other hand, if snow hadn’t yet fallen by Christmas, then Easter Day was bound to be snowy.
In the nineteenth century groups of men went door to door on Christmas Day, singing hymns and dragging a Yule log behind them. Householders rewarded the men with Christmas treats. The carolers later set fire to the log outside the village.
In past times Christmas festivities involving parties and dancing began on the second day of Christmas, that is, St. Stephen’s Day (see also Twelve Days of Christmas). Many people thought Christmas Day too holy for these kinds of activities and waited until the day after Christmas to gather together with their neighbors. People also took their oats to church to be blessed on this day.
In more recent times Christmas festivities began on Christmas Day. The celebrations lasted for several days, during which time custom forbade most types of work. Sometimes bands of revelers in costume went door to door during the Christmas season wishing householders abundant crops in the coming year (see also mumming). This group included Kaledu Senis, the Lithuanian Father Christmas. People thanked these well-wishers with Christmas treats. Kaledu Senis gave nuts to children and blessed homes by sprinkling grain in a special corner of the family’s dining area.
Today many Lithuanian families decorate their Christmas trees with geometrically shaped ornaments made from bent straws. These ornaments, once used by Lithuanian peasants to beautify their homes for weddings and feast days, were adapted to the Christmas tree by Lithuanians living in the United States. In past times Lithuanians decorated their trees with glass ornaments, candies, cookies, apples, and little toy figurines. When Christmas was over children consumed the edible ornaments.