The Halloween Origin, Its Traditions in Lithuania Now And In The Past

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The Halloween Origin, Its Traditions in Lithuania Now And In The Past  -  Photo credit: , Edition by Amber255 via

Modern European or American winds are blowing into Lithuania more often. To ones it gives joy and profit, others are outraged. Today I want to talk about a ghostly creepy, mysterious, crazy Halloween, celebrated in many Western countries and rapidly growing in our country.  Why? Because it is approaching. And another reason is a blog "It's time for Halloween! Trick or Treat?!" offering us to write blogs about Halloween. While observing the decorated shop windows, it is obvious that the Lithuanians are already infected by ghostly infection this autumn again.

Halloween is not only about putting on a costume, but it's about finding the imagination and costume within ourselves. - Elvis Duran


On October 31, the United States and many European countries celebrate Halloween. In the US, during this holiday season, children wear suits and walk-in neighbors houses asking for sweets, while adults, wearing suits and masks, take part in parties.

More and more Halloween is gaining popularity in Lithuania. Many think that Halloween is an American tradition, but in fact, its roots lie in European pagan rituals. The origin of Halloween feast is Pagan Celtic Festival called as Samhain. Translated from the ancient Celtic language, Samhain means the end of the summer.

What is the Halloween origin, how it came to Lithuania, and how we celebrate this funny feast? Read my blog. 

Halloween Celebration in Lithuania - Video credit: Laimonas Kryzanauskas via

The Halloween Origin

The beginning of the Halloween is associated with the old Celtics calendar. Since the year in a Celtic world was divided into light and dark sides, October 31 day had a special meaning for them. If to talk about our calendar system (Gregorian calendar), today's Halloween date coincided with the beginning of the Celtics' dark side of the year.

Thousand of years ago, the Celts celebrated their autumn harvest festival at Halloween night and at the same time met New Years. It is also possible to see relevant associations of the Celtic world with the regularities of natural phenomena. Nature's life that began in the spring, just go out with time, and in autumn, when the harvest is harvested, the vegetation dies. The days get shorter, and our nights become longer - the dark period of the year begins when everything is dying.

In addition, the Celtics perceived the October 31 as a special feature, when the time and space become more volatile due to natural transformations. For this reason, the spirits of the dead and other phenomena come into our world that night. The folklore begins to form stories about people's visits to unknown worlds and encounters with the spirits of deceased relatives on the basis of this world-view. 


Scary Old Samhain Picture  -  Photo credit:  

We can find such associations with the deceased and certain rituals following these beliefs in many ancient world cultures. Especially in agrarian communities, during the relationship that spring is a birth, and the autumn - death. 

 As the celebration was related to the beginning of the dark and cold years, it was believed that this very night the boundary between the spirits of the world and the real world becomes very thin.

Later on, the Halloween traditions were influenced by Catholicism. Pope Boniface IV in 609, the 13 of May announced the Day of All Martyrs. Pope Gregory III renamed this day as All Saints' Day in the 8th Century and moved it to November 1. In about the ninth century, Christianity reached the Celtics lands, where its traditions merged with the ancient Celtic customs.

In the old English, the All Saints Day was called All Hallows Day, and its eve was All Hallows Eve. It was from this word that eventually the word Halloween was born.

Why Do We Celebrate Halloween? - Video credit: Thoughty2 via

The Halloween History in Lithuania

To combat paganism, about 1000 year CA, the church has added one more day to its calendar - All Souls' Day. Their day was appointed on November 2nd. During this feast, the faithful had to pray for the dead. The decision to commemorate the Day of All Saints and All Souls at the beginning of November, the Church hoped that with the help of the day devoted to the saints and the dead would make it easier for them to attract the pagans' unwillingness refuse the old customs. 

That is why people celebrated the All Souls' Day in the same way as they celebrated Samhain - with parades, huge bonfires, and dressings of holy, angel, and devil costumes.


All Souls Day in Lithuania - Photo credit:

Lithuania is a Catholic country, and All Souls' Day is very important here. In Christian Lithuania, the end of October and at the beginning of November for many centuries was associated with the traditions of remembering and honoring the dead - the All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.These specific days of Soviet occupation also gained a patriotic movement tone oriented against the government.

In the late 19th century, the All Saints' day raised the anxiety to the authorities' structures because of youth demonstrations in cities, processions of believers from the church to the cemetery in the provinces.

After the restoration of independence, All Souls' Day and All Saints' Day became a purely Christian date for visiting the graves of death, the day of spiritual concentration and accumulation and tranquility.


Halloween celebration  -  Photo credit:

Halloween In Lithuania: Reconstitution Of Old Customs Or Cultural Kitsch?

Clearer changes of the 1st of November celebration traditions can be seen at the beginning of this decade. First of all, because of the Halloween films are shown on television, and second, due to the large emigration stream of the Lithuanians. They were returning home to the All Souls' Day to visit cemeteries. Those emigrants little by little sow the tradition of the Halloween celebration of the West to Lithuania.

At the initial stage, Halloween in Lithuania could be considered a celebration of small groups seeking for diverse and non-traditional forms of fun seeking. This celebration had a small effect on the common Halloween traditions.

Often, older people have only heard about this feast mostly on TV. However, the situation has changed dramatically as businessmen noticed growing youth's interest in Halloween. They decided to turn it into a great way to make a profit. Here it is clearly possible to see the second stage of the establishment of the Halloween phenomenon in Lithuania. Halloween attributes' sections began to appear in shops and supermarkets.


Halloween's pumpkins - Photo credit:

The chance to buy a mask or frightening trifle and surprise friends made the Halloween even more attractive to the youngsters. Today we can say that we are moving from the second to the third stage - the massive spread of Halloween and the consolidation of traditions in Lithuania. In many supermarkets, people can easily get the attributes needed for the celebration. Most nightclubs in the cities are planning special Halloween programs for October 31, many schoolchildren and older youngsters are enthusiastic about getting together and celebrating this celebration in mutual gatherings.

So how should we evaluate this whole phenomenon? When asking people what they think about it, we get a lot of different approaches. The older generation either does not know or dislike Halloween celebration in Lithuania. Middle-aged people and traditional-minded young people also criticize Halloween, considering it as strangeness and complete opposition to the celebration of the All Souls' Day

But we can find a lot of Halloween supporters who are usually celebrating it themselves. A common comment that this is nothing wrong, it is just a great opportunity to have fun and have a good time. There are also those who do not pay much attention to Christian All Souls' Day or Halloween and cannot critically evaluate the situation. Rarely, there are also allegations that Halloween is a relic of the Pagan period of Lithuanian culture, which was suppressed by Christianity, and now, with the growing public liberalism, it can again be celebrated.


  Halloween Feast - Photo credit:

Halloween Celebration In Lithuania

In early October, our ancestors together with families went to the sacred forests and carried out special rituals there. For three days, rituals were performed and sacrificed. Then people celebrated at feasts, played games throwing food on the earth as a sacrifice for souls. It was a duty of every human being, and it could not be ignored because in this way the gratitude to the gods for the given harvest was expressed.

Subsequently, the ritual of throwing food residues on the earth transformed into a ritual feeding of the spirits of the dead.  It is believed that the souls return to their homes in the winter with the harvest, so they need to be fed as thanks for their custody. Changing the calendar system, these customs were thrown to the end from the beginning of the month and were identified with Christian holidays.

Subsequently, the ritual of throwing food residues on the earth transformed into a ritual feeding of the spirits of the dead.  It is believed that the souls return to their homes in the winter with the harvest, so they need to be fed as thanks for their custody. Changing the calendar system, these customs were thrown to the end from the beginning of the month and were identified with Christian holidays.


Halloween feast's  sweets - Photo

Halloween is close to teens and people between the ages of 20 and 30 because for them it is a rebellious feast.

Halloween is an opportunity to free yourself and go freely, be as you please. Halloween makes it possible to become something cool. Of course, the images of the Halloween characters, created by the media, are also contributing to this.  Another reason is practical. It is hard to buy any Lithuanian traditional mask, but there are more than enough attributes of Halloween in all supermarkets. So, generally speaking, you go, buy a mask, and can celebrate Halloween

 Halloween Symbols 

People thought that the souls and other spirits of the dead people enter the real world at Samhain feast and then wander there. People were afraid to meet those souls when leaving homes. Therefore, they had such a habit of wearing masks because of the belief that souls will not be able to recognize people when they hide faces under masks. In addition, people left their food and other gifts at the door of their house with a hope that will pamper the souls.  

On this day, the druids fired massive bonfires and burned both the cereals and various animals as sacrifices to souls that entered the earth. In addition, the Celtics wore costumes, usually made from animal skins or even skulls, and tried to guess the future. Skin and skulls are believed to help communicate with spirits. Today, people paint their faces and wear costumes with masks. 


Halloween celebration - Photo credit:

Without pumpkin lanterns, no one imagines Halloween celebration. The custom to carve such lanterns came from ancient Irish folklore.  As told in a fairy tale, a man named Jack, who was known as a drinker and scammer, forced Satan to cling to the tree by deceit. Then Jack carved a cross on the trunk of the tree and so trapped Satan. Jack made a bargain with the devil so that if he promised never seduce him again, he will let him go down.

Jack was not allowed to enter the heavens after his death because of his evil deeds, but the devil did not let him go to hell either, because he had deceived him. The devil only gave Jack coals to light his path through the blind darkness.  The coals were placed inside the carved turnip to allow them to burn longer.

Irish used turnips as Jack Lantern. When immigrants arrived in America, they realized that the pumpkin was much more comfortable to use. That's why Jack's Lantern in America has become a carved pumpkin with burning coals inside.


Halloween celebration in Lithuania  -  Photo credit:

So although some pagan groups or Satanists call Halloween as their feast, it does not come from evil. It originates from the New Year's festivities and the ritual of prayer in medieval Europeans. And today many churches organize Halloween holidays or pumpkins carving parties for children.

On the Final Note

Although belief in the spirits walking through the world gradually disappeared, the habit of dressing in spirit suits with masks at Halloween day remained to these days.  

Halloween has no continuity of traditions in Lithuania, so it is artificial. Simply put, the celebration of Halloween in Lithuania is limited to the use of attributes for the purpose of Halloween but, it has not a consistent basis for our cultural phenomenon.

The biggest problem with Halloween and the All Souls' Day is that these holidays are next to each other. If they were given space of at least two weeks, there would not be so much outrage and discussions.  It's really hard to imagine how, after a furious Halloween night, you can quickly concentrate and with a calm heart to go to the graves.


Halloween feast -  Photo credit:

The main reason why Lithuanians are becoming more and more enthusiastic about celebrating other countries' holidays not based on our customs, I would prefer to blame the media and tradesmen. Thanks to the first, the image of the feast is sown in the public consciousness, while the latter provides physical means for the realization of that image. We have all the opportunities to popularize our traditional holidays, but unfortunately, we reject them and chase stranger ones.

On the other hand, any feast is bad as much as someone trying to do it.

Halloween is one day of breaking out of your shell, one day you can be completely expressive, where the world gives you license to dress up. -  Chris March




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You can check my other blogs: 

1. Easter Customs and Traditions in Lithuania

2. Traditional Lithuanian Cuisine in the Past and Now

3. The Traditions of Mother's Day in Lithuania

4. Lithuanian Wedding Customs and Traditions


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