Hello and welcome to another fun edition of “Wild and Wacky Lithuanian Holiday Traditions.” Today’s topic is Easter, or “Velykos.”
In Lithuania there was no Easter bunny, but rather an Easter Hag (“Bobut?). The Velyk? Bobut? was a little old lady who rode around in a carriage pulled by a rabbit. She would deliver each child ONE OR TWO EGGS.
“And you better believe those kids were grateful. Nobody ever heard of jelly beans or Peeps back then. They were just happy to get a couple of warm eggs on their windowsill, straight from the chicken.”
Another thing the Lithuanians did was to race each other home from church in their horse drawn carriages. It was said that the winner would finish his work faster than others throughout the coming year, all of his animals would be healthy, and his bees would make more honey. I imagine this caused more than a few buggy accidents, which is probably why the ancient Lithuanians also used to say special ritual prayers on Easter morning to protect themselves from roadside snakes, wolves, demons, and accidents.
“But guess what, kids! The Lithuanian children were happy to ride home seatbelt-less in a horse drawn carriage because it beat walking.”
Once home, the Lithuanians partook in a breakfast feast of pretty much every kind of meat available to them, bacon, cake, beets, mushrooms, and colored Easter eggs, or “margu?iai.” But before beginning the meal, they would count their blessings and divvy up one egg between them as a symbol of family unity.
After everyone had eaten his egg sliver, the Egg Wars would begin. Each person would select an egg and hit it, end-to-end, against another person’s egg. If your egg remained intact, you would go on to the next round and hit your egg against the egg of another winner, and on down the line until one person with an unbroken egg emerged victorious.
That person would live the longest.
After breakfast, kids would roll eggs down a wooden plank on an incline, kind of like in a game of marbles. If anyone tried to cheat by using a fake egg, he would be pelted with raw ones.
“And believe you me, they thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. That’s because they didn’t have TVs, computers, or iPods.”
Growing up, my family retained some modernized forms of these traditions. For example, my dad would always make a beeline out of church right after the Mass of the Resurrection to get a head start on the parking lot traffic. And though we never tried to divide a single egg between us, we always decorated margu?iai and proceeded to destroy them in the Egg Wars. (The trick, if you choose to try this, is to always hold your egg still and let the other person hit it. Also, use the blunt end.)
Happy Easter! And may your egg remain intact on both ends.Subscribe to the blog. (It's free!)