A Lithuanian Christmas ~ Gina

Thank you for sharing this, Gina.  It is so fun to see the different ways we all celebrate this grand Holiday.
Gina is from Lithuania and now lives in Texas.~Marie

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Christmas Eve, which is the day before Christmas Day, is celebrated in many countries worldwide. It is a Christian observance that falls on December 24 in the Gregorian calendar.

After Glen and I married and had children we spent many years at my parents house in Cleveland, Oh.  The kids would cringe that they would have to eat FISH and HERRING. ~ Gina

Christmas Eve Food in Lithuania

Article from:  www.lithuanianhomecooking.com/home/christmas-evefoodin-lithuania

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Christmas Season is unarguably the biggest among all public holidays in Lithuania – much like in most Western countries. What may surprise you, however, that not Christmas itself, but rather Christmas Eve (“Kūčios“) is more anticipated and has more traditions, both cultural and culinary, attached to it.

Authentic Christmas Eve celebrations encompass a variety of ceremonies and rituals, some of which date as far as Lithuania’s pagan times before the end of the 14th century. Today, Christmas Eve is mostly regarded as an annual occasion to gather family and friends around the dinner table.

Twelve Dishes for the Christmas Eve Dinner Table

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Lithuanian Christmas Eve Dinner

Traditionally, twelve dishes are to be served on a Christmas Eve table (symbolizing twelve months of the year) and the dinner is to start once the Western star rises. To date, I am not sure what the Western star is, but the twelve dish rule is generally much easier to observe 🙂
So what are the typical 12 dishes that you would find on a Lithuanian Kūčios dinner table?
1, 2, 3 and maybe more. Various herring salads
Not even kidding – you will find on average 3 types of dishes containing herring on a typical Lithuanian Christmas Eve table. Herring with beets, herring with carrots, herring with apples, herring with hot potatoes – you name it. I personally LOVE herring and Christmas Eve is a good occasion to get a year’s fill of it.
Herring & Beet Salad

Herring & Beet Salad

Herring Terrine

Herring Terrine

... and more herring

… and more herring

 

4. Christmas Eve Cookies (“Kūčiukai“)

I translated the name of this pastry as “cookies” for the lack of a better word. Kūčiukai (sometimes called šližikai) are crouton-sized dough bits made of plain flour, water and poppy seeds and baked exceptionally for Christmas Eve only. Once baked, they become rock-hard within a day, yet are served as a table centerpiece because of old traditions. What is Christmas Eve without a cracked tooth!

Yet do make Kūčiukai if you plan to have truly Lithuanian Christmas Eve.

Kūčiukai

Kūčiukai

5. Poppy Seed Milk

Another special for Christmas Eve, poppy seed milk is something like Lithuanian eggnog. It is often served alongside with Christmas Eve cookies – something like breakfast cereal, only for dinner.

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6. Cranberry Kissel Drink

Kissel is found in many Eastern European cuisines, and it is usually a berry or fruit flavoured thick starchy dessert. In Lithuania, however, kissel is thinned down to a consistency of a drink, and its cranberry variety is a favorite in winter and during Christmas season.

Traditionally, cranberry kissel is made by boiling cranberries, straining them, thickening the hot liquid with starch and adding sugar to taste. As a shortcut, you may heat up ready-made cranberry juice and drizzle some starch suspended in a small amount of water to thicken the juice. Voila – you have a kissel.

Cranberry Kissel Drink

Cranberry Kissel Drink

7. Communion wafers

Catholicism is the dominant religion in Lithuania, and sharing community wafers during the Christmas Eve dinner is common. Usually a wafer is passed around the table, and each family member breaks and eats a piece, whishing the others a good year ahead. Thus it is not strictly a dish, but one of a better known traditions. One usually can buy wafers from their nearest church.

Communion Wafers

Communion Wafers

8 and on. The Rest

The remaining of the twelve dishes (and lets face it – twelve is the minimum, rather than the exact count, nowadays) vary from table to table, from family to family. Here a several of the most common ones:

Potato salad – or as Lithuanians call it, “white salad”, is a favorite in various celebrations, not only in Christmas season.

White Salad

White Salad

Cold cuts – ham, roasts, or beef tongue with condiments. Traditionally, meat is not allowed on the Christmas Eve table due to Advent observances, but this is often no longer the case nowadays.

Beef tongue cuts

Beef tongue cuts

Aspica savoury collagenous jelly made with meat and set in a mould. Served with mayo, horseradish or vinegar.

Aspic

Aspic

Tangerines – tropical fruits, of course, are far from traditional, but in the latter decades tangerines in particular became very common on the Christmas Eve table. Grocery stores also seem to stock up on them in December in anticipation of the demand. Culinary globalization in action!

Tangerines on Christmas Eve table

Tangerines on Christmas Eve table


Chocolate and candies
– our family’s Christmas Eve tradition was to serve a certain Lithuanian candy brand “Griliažas” – something like peanut brittle covered in chocolate.
Candies "Griliažas"

Candies “Griliažas”

 

9 thoughts on “A Lithuanian Christmas ~ Gina

  1. Thanks for telling us about your traditions. My husband and I visited Lithuania a few years ago, liked it a lot, and although I don’t remember the exact foods I remember liking all the foods, typical Eastern European foods. Merry Christmas.

  2. Thanks Marie for posting this. I grew up eating herring so I do like it but my husband and children felt they were going thru torture.
    Regular Lithuanian food is very similar to Russian, Polish and other European countries.
    I was fifteen when we emigrated to the US after WWII and left Cleveland to join the Marine Corps at 25 so my life changed and my parent’s house was my only HERRING experience from then on.
    Merry Christmas to everyone.

  3. Gina, I’m from England, and my father would eat herring every morning for breakfast!
    I am allergic to fish,but i would rather be allergic to that than anything else. Those “griliazas” sounded really good.

  4. Thank you for sharing your traditions. Wonderful to continue for children to know how and why certain food items are used. Merry Christmas.

  5. Thanks Gina for having documented the customs of the Christmas Eve meal. I may not know the part of these dishes but I have to tell you that at our house this evening there will be lunch the day before, strictly fish, and of course there will also kippers which we like very much, yesterday I had to shoot three stores to find them but it did.

  6. Thank You, Gina. Very pretty food presentations on your traditional, Lithuanian Christmas Eve tables. The fish, vegetables, fruits and seeds are good, healthful foods. I wasn’t aware of any of this, so I thank you for your posting it for us to learn about it. I wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas season and a peaceful and happy new year. 🌟🌍

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