A feast and Palm Sunday in the parish of Babtai at the first half of the 20th century: a reflection of folk piety

Jonas Mardosa

From a perspective of folk piety, the feast and traditions of Palm Sunday in the area of Babtai during the first half of the 20th century are discussed in the paper. There is an objective to investigate the course of the feast, manners, and their variation in time, as well as their role in the life of local people. The material collected during field studies in 2002 in the area of Babtai and various works by ethnologists have been used. Discussion of religious and folk traditions and their reflection forms during the feast in the Babtai Church were the key tasks of the study. The specificity of participation of different community groups in the feast is analysed. The consecration during the Palm Sunday of three branches (twigs) used a raw material to produce the verba (the Palm Sunday flowers) and their variety is analysed in relation to the verba traditions.

Summing up the investigation results, it can be said that although the feast and verba traditions and ceremonies are not authorised by the Church, they existed in a context of feast liturgy as the main part of the feast with important significance in social and cultural life of the people. Within a context of folk piety, the feast during the first half of the 20th century used to be the main gala of the parish, and local people used to be involved in its preparations. Its social functions included preparations and travel to the church, active personal participation of people at the feast and donations to beggars. The goals of participation, however, differed with social groups of people. Signs of social exclusion in rural area had appeared during the 1920s-1930s; they are seen in different moments of the feast: the means of travel to the feast, style of communication among pilgrims and participation at the post-feast attractive events. The communication functions during the feast differ with the age of people. The older people prefer the talks with their family members and relatives during the feast and at home, while the younger like meetings with their peers in the town or at the post-feast parties.

The features of twigs consecrated during the Palm Sunday and their use in everyday life of people on the first half of the 20th century analysed showed that juniper twigs prevailed in the area of Babtai belong to the area typical of the West Lithuanian symbol content. The juniper twigs, rarer willow, consecrated during the Palm Sunday are sometimes decorated with certain additives. This attribute appears approaching the mid-20th century, when dried field or room flowers are added. Therefore, some consecrated verbas attain a meaning of sacramentals, while others become a decorative symbol of the Easter. Combination of Christian sacramental meaning in post-feast time with magic objectives have been detected during the period studied. The use of sacralised verba to protect houses existed in such a context, a well as tradition of whipping with the verba, which gradually lost their meaning in the society during the start of the Soviet period together with other traditional use types. Thus, the traditions, as studied here, related to the feast, Palm Sunday and the verba show the custom of religious and social objectives changing with time but remaining in daily life of people in the area of Babtai during the first half of the 20th century.