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All Souls’ Day in Lithuania

Posted by Eglė  |  November 03, 2021

All Souls’ Day, otherwise known as “Vėlinės”, is one of the most magical and superstitious days in Lithuania. It is celebrated on the 2nd of November to honour the deceased. During this particular day, the most common practices are visiting graves, lighting candles on the tombs of loved ones, and praying for their well-being. It is one of the most important holidays in the Lithuanian Calendar. All Souls’ Day has nothing to do with Halloween as it is all about peace and quiet; a day with a significant meaning. Therefore, Baltic Tours invites you to learn more about this magical celebration and its country of origin.

Origins of All Souls’ Day

As a Christian holiday, All Souls’ Day originated in the 10th century – 993 in the monastery of Cluny city in France, when pope Gregory 5 added November 2nd as the day to pray for the dead. From then on it quickly spread over the Christian-based countries. In some places, the celebration adapted the name of All Souls’ Day, in other, the day of the dead.

In Lithuania, the origins to honour souls date back to the paganism era, when this celebration was called “Ilgės” and lasted for 3 days. Communication with the deceased was dedicated the entire fall season after the fields were harvested. Therefore, the celebration we know today was formed by the intertwining of customs from the Christian church with the Lithuanian pagan holiday.

Customs

In pagan times, All Souls’ Day was celebrated while families gathered in cemeteries with food. During the visit, red and black eggs were carried on the grave in the hope it would bring them a good harvest. Also, graves were watered with mead or wine, and the table was loaded with bread, black pudding, and other dark coloured dishes. People also donated drinks and food before eating for the spirits in the afterlife. The leftover food was offered to homeless people to pray for the dead. In the end of 3 days celebration, people started a bonfire while burning all wooden crosses and branches of the graveyard to pray and sing songs for all cemetery souls.

Today if you travel, you can see that All Souls’ Day is still celebrated all over Lithuania. On this day, all members of the family gather and visit the graves of their loved ones together. Graves are carefully cleaned and decorated with fresh and dry flowers or plants, candles are placed next to the monument and lit. Mourning services for the dead are ordered in the churches. One of the main customs of the day is a family feast to connect with loved ones, who were lost a long time.

Beliefs

In the past, ancient Lithuanians believed in the return of the spirits from the afterlife to earth to visit their families. If an unfamiliar traveller passed by the house, he would be kindly invited and served. Such people are believed to be a ghost or a messenger of the soul who searches for the companionship and grace of the living. Later special significance was assigned to the fire. It was believed that fire attracts souls and they need to be honoured 4 times in a year.

Need to know!

On All Souls’ Day, there is a massive migration around the country: people try to visit all the graveyards and cemeteries where their loved one’s rest. The graves are decorated before the day. Candles are lit on the graves only during All Souls’ Day.

Therefore, candles in the cemetery have started burning relatively recently, but this creates a magical moment in everyone’s heart and eyes.

Do you want to know more? Book now with Baltic tours and feel the spirit of All Souls’ Day in Lithuania!