The main springtime feasts in the area of Kupiškis

Arūnas Vaicekauskas

The customs of three main springtime feasts in the area of Kupiškis during the first half of the 20th century are discussed in the paper. Even two of them – Jurginės (Saint George's Day) and the Pentecost – had formerly marked the beginning and the end of spring works in the fields, although in the latest tradition they are more related to cattle pasturage. The Easter is thought to be a point of conversion in cosmic time; this point had marked a Christian equivalent of archaic feasts, but they attained the same ceremonial structure as other calendar cycle feasts less related to the Christianity.

In spite of this difference, the main springtime feasts have a very similar structure of ceremonies. All they begin by a ban to do usual works and end with ceremonial heavy or light refreshments. Farmers in Lithuania used always to lay the feast table with abundant food for main annual feasts. It was believed that the year would be rich and the family would never feel lack of bread. All three discussed feast events have a custom of spraying with water. As a rule this ceremony had to ensure enough water in summer for growing crops. Specific goals were striven rarely, e.g. spraying of a shepherd with water the house believed that their cows would give more milk. From the Easter or Saint George feast-day, village people used to begin the crops visiting ritual. An egg is a product of animal origin; therefore the ritual eggs always are seen at the feasts, where main attention is given to livestock farming. However, the symbol of egg is not limited with livestock farming related implications. The egg, expressing universal symbol of life (health, growth) power, from the standpoint of archetypal consciousness could also be a primary source of the universe, as well as a symbol of burial ritual that is difficult to understand nowadays. The roots of many calendar feast rituals reach those times, when peasant community was believed to consist of the alive and the dead. The alive believed that the dead were quite near and related by close family link and were interested in the well being of their community. Therefore some feast rituals were devoted to ensure the link between the alive and the dead. The Lithuanian feasts also show the semantics of the dead forefathers cult both in Pentecost and St George feast-day rituals. The motives of competition and encounter are also typical of many calendar feasts. The Pentecost feast in Kupiškis is not an exception. During the Pentecost or the first Sunday after it, the young villagers used to arrange bull butting.