Celebration of Užgavėnės (Mardi Gras): Winter, Winter, Go Away!

In Lithuania, we call the holiday Užgavėnės which can be loosely translated into ‘Before fasting period’. The Lithuanian festival takes place during the seventh week before Easter and is marking the end of Winter. The celebration involves burning of Morė, an effigy of winter. It symbolizes the defeat of winter and it is made of various materials and has the vague shape of a woman.

The effect of the burning is tremendous 's elated people dance around the effigy and sing traditional songs. Not less important is a battle between Lašininis (“porky”) personifying winter and Kanapinis (“hempen man”) representing spring. Of course Kanapinis always wins! Devils, witches, goats, grim reaper and other characters appear in costumes during this celebration.

On February 22 this year, students, who weren’t afraid of windy weather, went to Open-Air Museum of Lithuania in Rumšiškės town - the capital of Užgavėnės and tried to scare winter away. Students were invited to dance entertaining folk dances, to make their own mask and to play traditional games like fighting with bags while standing on stumps, rope pulling, pots breaking blindfolded, riding with a trough, walking with stilts.

The most popular traditional food served during the festival is pancakes with various toppings. Užgavėnės also could be lovingly called pancake day by those with a sweet tooth. Everyone must eat loads of pancakes during this day to stay healthy and strong all year. Students had an opportunity to taste various pancakes which also symbolize the return of the sun because of their round shape.

During this festivity, there is a unique and authentic vibe in the air.  Užgavėnės is all about saying goodbye to the winter. All you need to know to join in is the words: ‘Žiema, žiema, bėk iš kiemo’ which mean ‘Winter, Winter, go away’.

 Text&photos: International Programme Coordinator Agnė Jašauskaitė