There are not many nations in the world that celebrate Christmas Eve so devotedly as the Lithuanians. Christmas Eve is more important than Christmas day in our country and in my family too. All customs center round the celebration of the birth of Jesus and intertwine with the symbols of the Last Supper.
On the 24th in the morning we clean and decorate our house. Then we decorate a Christmas tree with glass balls and electrical lights. We switch it on every day when it turns dark outside. All members of our family put their presents under the Christmas tree.
In the evening on Christmas Eve all members of our family gather together and have a big dinner with twelve special dishes. It’s necessary to have twelve dishes because Jesus had twelve apostles. All dishes must be without fat, milk, butter and meat, because it’s the last day of fasting. Usually we make dishes with fish, grains, green peas and mushrooms. The main dish is kuciukai – little cookies made from paste with yeast. They are eaten with milk made from poppy seeds.
Our family gathers at the dinner table as soon as the first star appears in the sky. When everyone is assembled at the table we say the prayer. The father then offers his wafer to every family member or guest at the table. He wishes the best wishes for everyone. In our family the Christmas Eve table is not cleared for the night, because we believe that the souls of our ancestors and others dead members of our family come home for supper on this night.
Christmas Eve is rich in prognostications. We draw straws from under the tablecloth. The longest straw means that our life will be very long, the thickest means that we will be happy.
After dinner we open our presents, one at a time, so everybody can see what the other gets. It’s a nice way of doing it. When the gifts are unwrapped, we talk or watch Christmas movies.
I like Christmas, because it is a special holiday in our family, when all members of our family gather together.