Christmas in Lithuania and Georgia
16 January, 2014
Christmas in Lithuania and Georgia
Interview with Jonas Paslauskas, Ambassador of Lithuania to Georgia

Jonas Paslauskas, the Lithuanian Ambassador to Georgia, has been in Georgia for three and a half years. This year he celebrated Christmas and New Year’s in Georgia. We discussed his country’s traditions.
– How is Christmas in Lithuania?
– As a Catholic country, Lithuania has deep and most honored traditions in celebrating religious holidays, Christmas Eve being the most widely celebrated. Since Soviet times, although authorities did not allow even mentioning
the name, most of our families, even those who were supposed to stick to the Soviet ideology, would lay a table on 24 December for the Christmas Eve celebration. I remember that the most complicated thing was to purchase a Christmas tree, because in those days Christmas trees were meant for New Year’s only. The sale would start only on 26 December.
But I believe that most families were like ours, by whom this day was not to be forgotten. Since the Advent we were supposed to fast. That means no animal products, including no milk, meat or eggs. Christmas Eve is the last day of fasting. Traditionally we have to lay a white table cloth, preferably strewn with straw underneath. On that table we would have 12 dishes, all without meat or dairy products, no eggs. In Soviet times it was extremely hard to prepare Christmas Eve, for there was a shortage of food. Here would come fish and herring, all kinds of beet and bean salads, a Lithuanian version of khinkali with blackberries inside, traditional pastries, a drink made of ground poppy seeds (of a type impossible to get here in Georgia), no alcohol, except for red wine recently. The evening is supposed to be spent with the immediate family. And of course, the most important item was the Holy Host brought home from the church.
At the beginning of the supper, the eldest member of the family would say a prayer, make a sign of the Cross over the Holy Host, and distribute it to those around the table. However, since we are diplomats and travel around the world, we have our tradition to invite local friends to the Christmas Eve supper and introduce them to our centuries-long traditions. In the old days people used to play games and do fortunetelling. In general, Christmas Eve supper in Lithuania is considered to be a very solemn and holy event, unlike Christmas when everybody is relieved after the long fasting during Advent. It is then that people bake a goose or a pig, and eat to their heart’s content. Then they go visiting friends and neighbors. But no Christmas day would start without going to Church for the early morning mass. Of course, young children open up their Santa Claus gifts even before going to church. Nowadays because of the traditions and due to the worldwide celebration of the day, Christmas is the most important event of the year.
– What about the New Year’s celebration traditions?
– Again, in Soviet times, since Christmas was forbidden in Lithuania, New Year’s Eve was made the major holiday of the year. Of course, a holiday is a holiday, and we gladly celebrated it. The traditions here do not have deep roots. It is more an outdoor event, spent with friends and big companies. For us, New Year’s celebration depended largely on the country of our residence. In Washington DC, as we had small children, we used to go watch fireworks. In Canada, we used to go skating on the Ottawa River canal. In the brief periods we were in Lithuania we tried to divide our time between relatives and friends. In Belarus, we usually used to spend the evening outdoors with friends roasting a pig, making mulled wine, and enjoying a sleigh ride. In New York we squeezed our way towards Time Square in the crowd of hundreds of thousands to watch a crystal ball called the Big Apple fall on a spike.
– You are here for over three years. Have you experienced the Georgian New Year?
– Meanwhile, in our beloved Tbilisi, we choose not to go anywhere, but invite our friends instead to our house, where we can enjoy the beautiful sight of multiple fireworks, which seemingly come from every courtyard, street, and square. My wife Dalia bakes a stuffed duck; we drink champagne, and wish all the best in the New Year to each other and our family, our friends and relatives, and peace and prosperity to our countries. And after the clock strikes, we usually have a lengthy period of attempted telephone calls around the world, trying to contact our children in the US and our relatives in Lithuania, sometimes unsuccessfully because of the blocked lines. At two o’clock in the morning we celebrate another New Year together with Lithuania and then we watch the Lithuanian television program. In younger days, we used to stay up until at least six o’clock in the morning; however, now our New Year’s nights become shorter and shorter.
On the first of January we celebrate Lithuania’s Flag Day, and we spent it visiting friends and getting ready for new accomplishments.
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