Like most peoples, Lithuanians are proud of their roots and traditions. Several historic and geographic factors contributed to the sedentary life of the Baltic tribes living in Lithuania during the first millennium which was characterized by the migration of nations. Lithuanians were the last pagan people in Europe, accepting Christianity only in the 14th century. As a result, the ethnic foundation of Lithuanian traditional culture remained quite homogenous, quite a few ancient cultural relicts still survive among today's traditions. Due to common origins and frequent contacts, our culture bears some resemblance to those of neighboring peoples' especially the Latvians and Eastern Slavs. Unquestionably, Christianity had a significant impact on Lithuanian traditions. Western influence was spread through Lithuania by the gentry and adapted to local conditions by peasant farmers. In general, peasants held onto Lithuanian traits while the upper classes assimilated into the cultures of powerful neighboring nations.
Often when we speak of Lithuanian traditional culture, we mean that which was characteristic of 19th to early 20th century peasants. It was during that time period that Lithuanian national identity evolved and that the independent Lithuanian state was reborn. In addition, more information from this age has survived to our day than from any other earlier time periods. Thus we have made traditional culture of the 19th and early 20th century the focus of this booklet.
In the chapter called "Land and Origins" you will find general information about our country's nature, people, national symbols, ancient Baltic culture, mythology and state's history.
What are the ethnic regions of Lithuania? What kind of folklore are Lithuanians most proud of? How did we sing? What is a sutartine? What kinds of folk instruments and dances existed in Lithuania? You will find the answers to these and other questions in the chapter "Word, Music and Dance".
"The Calendar Cycle" will present a broad overview of the rich spectrum of Lithuanian work and holiday customs.
How were infants welcomed into the world? How were people honored and remembered after death? What were Lithuanian weddings like? All of this information can be found in the chapter "Family Celebrations".
In the chapter "Clothing" you will learn about our ancestors' colorful holiday garments.
"The Table" describes how Lithuanians conducted feasts as well as ordinary meals. It also enumerates what foods were served and what rituals surrounded everyday bread. In this chapter you will also find several traditional recipes.
How simple work tools were decorated, what kinds of dishes were used, with what were beds covered, and how Easter eggs were decorated will be described in the chapter entitled "Applied Art".
What is a pirkia and a troba? With what kinds of pictures did farmers decorate their houses' interiors? Why is Lithuania called the country of crosses? You will find these questions answered in "Architecture and Figurative Art".
Finally, the chapter named "The Present Day, Folklore and Folklore Studies" will outline which traditions are alive today, and which are not, how traditional culture has been reborn in new forms and how it is researched.
"LITHUANIAN ROOTS", Edited by Rytis Ambrazevicius