Every year, seven weeks before Easter (today!!), Lithuanians celebrate their own type of Pancake Day. We do eat pancakes, lots and lots of them, just like people in other countries, but we take it to the next level. Thus, let me tell you about this amazing tradition!
First of all, we do not call it “pancake day”, we call it “užgavėnės” or “the time before Lent”. It is a rather an old celebration, to be exact, it is a pagan type of event, only later it became associated with Christianity.
Why is this day so unique and lovable (as for me, it is one of my favourite winter festivals)? Because of everything, I must admit! During this day, people put on traditional masks or completely dress up as witches, gypsies, devils, goats, grim reapers and many other different traditional characters that are both joyful and frightening. After all the make-up, the fun part starts. In the morning, or early afternoon, little kids go around the neighborhood and ask everyone for candies or pancakes. It is similar to the Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating, but our way of asking for sweets is very different, as kids, actually, have to put in lots of effort, be cheerful and even sing a special song:
Mes čigonai Lietuvos (We are gypsies of Lithuania)
Norim blynų ir kavos, (We want pancakes and coffee)
Bet jei blynai nemaišyti, (But if pancakes are not ready)
Prašom saldainius krapštyti! (We are asking for some candies)
After all the songs and candies, the fun still continues. Most of the time people dance around the bonfire, play traditional Lithuanian games, sing various songs. In this way, they are trying to get rid of winter. The two major symbols of this part are the burning of the effigy of winter named Morė and the fight between Lašininis (“porky man”) who represent winter and Kanapinis (“hempen man”) who represents spring. During this fight the hempen man always wins, this way symbolizing the true defeat and the end of winter.
At the end of each gathering on this day, after all the dancing and singing, and the defeat of the porky man, people usually start shouting specific words. They always go like this: “Žiema, žiema, bėk iš kiemo!” (Winter, winter, go away from my yard!) To us these are like magical words, that we repeat many times to seal the deal with the ending of coldness and beginning of new life circle.
That is how we celebrate pancake day in my country, do you have any special traditions for this day? Do you celebrate it at all? How? 🙂
Happy pancake day everyone!