THE LITHUANIAN CALENDAR
Lithuanians always felt a close relationship
to nature, its influence on them and its cyclic recurrence. All farm work
was done at the same time every year. The main reference points of the
national calendar are determined by beginning and end of all work, spring
and autumn, winter and summer solstice.A calendar is a summarizing regulation
of practical activity, work distribution and sequence. The beginning and
ending of a larger, more important job was designated by a festival. Festivals
were a form of rest after heavy, daily toil, a time of concentration and
preparation for other labors. During these festivals, inherited ancestral
traditions of rebirth of nature, earth awakening, ancestor commemoration
were maintained. One of them is a belief that the souls of the dead return
home to their family during these annual holidays. That is why people waited
and prepared for them. Everything in the house was cleaned, everyone bathed
and dressed in holiday garb. Women prepared traditional foods that their
mothers and grandmothers used to.
Improper preparations for the festival
or shortage of help to the souls of the dead, would bring out the souls'
wrath. Angry ancestors could harm the fields, crop capacity, animals' fertility
and peoples' health. For these reasons people sought the dead souls' benevolence.
The dead were still considered members of the family and while partaking
of food together would accede to common family problems. The holiday foods
prepared from the year's harvest, predetermined a good harvest, fertility,
good health and success for everyone. The tradition to distribute left
over food to beggars continued, for it was believed that they have a mysterious
relationship with the dead, they are the go- betweens between the living
and the dead. It was imperative to share food with them for the same purposes
– good harvest, health and peace for the dead.
On the basis of calendar festivals, Lithuanians
created rich ceremonies and myths connected with the cults of earth, water,
wind, sun, moon, stars, etc., the meaning of which was embodied by goddesses
and mythical beings.
Renewal of time and beginning of new year,
Lithuanians linked traditionally with the return of the sun. These festivals
began around December 20-24 and ended after two weeks, when the days were
longer by a rooster's step. The celebration of New Year on January 1 was
begun in the 19th century. Christianity
came to Lithuania in the year 1387 and Lithuanians accepted the Christian
rituals and new feast days distrustfully. When the country became totally
Christian, Lithuanians continued their inherited, ancestral celebrations.
The ancient and new Christian rituals took several centuries to combine.
At the end of the 19th century and even in the first decades of the 20th
century, holidays had double names, ancient and Christian. Some of them
have remained till now. For example, the 24th of June, the feast of St.
John – the Dews [ a.k.a. Rasos ], the 15th of August, Virgin Mary's going
to heaven – Herbal Holiday [ a.k.a. Þolinë ], 8th of September,
Virgin Mary's birthday – Pine Forest Holiday [ a.k.a.Ðilinë ]
and so on.
The Moon calendar was used in ancient Lithuania. The
Sun calendar took root with the development of agriculture. From the middle
of the 13th century, till the end of the 16th century, the Julian calendar
became official in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Gregorian calendar
was introduced in the year 1586. This counting of time was abolished in
1800 when Lithuania was divided for the last time and fell under Russian
rule. Russia used the old Julian calendar and reintroduced it in Lithuania.
In 1918, when Lithuania became independent, Lithuanians began to use the
new countings of time. Changes of official calendars caused many disorders
and misunderstandings in calendar traditions.
The names of months in Lithuania are connected with phenomena
in nature, seasonal works, holidays, flora and fauna. The days of the week
are called according to their place in the week;
Pirmadienis, first day, Antradienis, second day, Treèiadienis,
third day, Ketvirtadienis, fourth day, Penktadienis, fifth day, Ðeðtadienis,
sixth day, Sekmadienis, seventh day.
Traditions and ceremonies of calendar holidays were constantly
in the flow of centuries. Some disappeared, others changed beyond recognition,
new ones appeared. All these processes occurred slowly and imperceptibly.