The holidays can be stressful for most, yet they represent a time of anticipation and hope for the coming year. In Lithuania, pagan magic rituals were performed to attract a positive future for centuries. While rituals for love or prosperity may easily be performed at home, experiencing them with local guidance may produce better outcomes. During Christmas, travelers in Lithuania may connect with a deep tradition that some locals swear by even today.
Despite being the favorite holiday of many, Christmas can cause a lot of stress—increased spending, family turmoil, working over the holidays—are just a few examples of the difficulties one may face. As a result, more people are looking for new ways to bring some predictability about the future into their lives. Christmas magic rituals would be nothing new in this case, yet countries like Lithuania have a concrete set of practices that date back to the times of paganism
The most popular rituals—those concerning love and the future—are still widely practiced today. To highlight these traditions, Lithuania Travel, the country’s national tourism development agency, is releasing a series of videos throughout December as part of the “Lithuania. Where Christmas Magic is Real Magic” campaign. The short clips showcase the ways travelers could enchant their visit to Lithuania and partake in traditional Christmas rituals.
While people of all cultures may benefit from enhanced powers when performing these spells locally, the unconventional Lithuanian holiday magic may easily be replicated at home to great effect. The examples below are both some of the strangest and most accessible that Lithuania has to offer.
- During Christmas Eve, Lithuanians bathe in tubs of warm water. Young women avoid drying their faces before going to sleep, as it is said that their true love will come to visit them in their dream and wipe off the water. Additionally, some women leave out a dish with their bathing water, towel, or soap bar to strengthen the ritual.
- The salt spell entails women eating a salty, unsoaked herring (head included) before going to sleep to intensify their dreams. Others eat salty kūčiukai, traditional Lithuanian holiday biscuits, leaving the leftovers under their pillow. It is said that their true love will come to offer a drink in their sleep.
- To predict whether the coming year will bring a new relationship, Lithuanians count a random amount of any given object, for example, kūčiukai, as mentioned above. If it happens to be an even number, love can be expected, while an odd number supposes that a relationship will not be formed in the near future.
Rituals for the Future:
- The wax ritual entails dripping melted wax either from a spoon or directly from the candle into a bucket of water. The figures that formed from the hardened resin are inspected for clues into the future, symbols of things to come. Sometimes, the shadows cast from the figures as they are held up to a light serve a similar purpose.
- Another tradition is drawing a piece of straw from under the table after the Christmas Eve dinner. The length of the straw is said to foretell the length of a persons’ life, while for others, especially women, it predicts the yield of the planted flax for the coming harvest.
- For good fortune to follow in the coming year, Lithuanians make offerings to Kalėda - the personification of the ancestor who comes from the underworld, who comes to visit the living on Christmas with good wishes from the departed. Leaving out offerings, such as food or gifts, is seen as necessary for the intentions to manifest.
Suspending disbelief and relishing the magical element of Christmas is widely practiced across the world, but Lithuanians place a lot of significance on traditions that could be deemed “weird” by outsiders. By tapping into the rituals performed by entire generations of people seeking to ward off negative energy at the turn of the seasons, people today may find an escape from their daily woes and invite blessings for the upcoming year.