This book is dedicated to the Lithuanian calendar and family holidays of the Gerviečiai region in the 20th c. In the photographs from 2010–2012 — the full year cycle, beginning with prayers in May at the village cross and ending on Verbų sekmadienis (Palm Sunday) — the eve of Easter. The calender of holidays includes Sekminės (Pentecost), end of harvest in August, Vėlinės (All Souls Day), Kūčios (Christmas Eve), the greatest holiday in this region — the Feast of the Holy Trinity, baptisms and funerals, the priest collecting alms for Christmas and baking of the holiday loaf.
The descriptions of the holidays and sound recordings/photographs capture the stories of the people, their songs and hymns.
CALENDAR OF HOLIDAYS
WORSHIP AT THE CROSS
The women of the village of Rimdžiūnai would gather at the village cross on the brightest spring and summer evenings for two months to sing prayers: in May (Gegužinės) — for the Blessed Virgin Mary and in June (Birželinės) — the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
People remember that in the region of Gerviečiai Sekminės was celebrated for four whole days. Even today the tradition remains to decorate houses of worship, the gates of every home with birch trees; branches were tucked against the ceiling in rooms and the graves of loved ones were tidied.
FEAST OF THE HOLY TRINITY
One week after Sekminės, in Gerviečiai, the Feast of the Holy Trinity takes place, the greatest celebration in this region, during which the empty farmsteads of Gerviečiai once more fill with people.
At the wake and funeral of a woman from Girios, who had raised four daughters, her whole family, neighbours, childhood friends, invited singers took part. The funeral procession accompanied the coffin to the cemetery chapel and grave pit.
On 15 August the Church celebrates the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Žolinės), which in the region of Gerviečiai is related to the blessing of the new year's harvest — every woman brings to church a bouquet, made from grains, vegetables, fruits and flowers from the garden.
PABAIGTUVĖS (End of harvest)
People remember that in cutting the last sheaf of rye the women would thank the earth for her gifts, they would sacrifice a slice of bread, and at the end of the reaping a piglet would be butchered.
BAKING OF LOAVES
Many people in Gerviečiai continue to live in the same homes that were built by their parents — they have old bread ovens that are still used for baking holiday loaves.
Baptisms in the village of Mockos included merry processions of mummers: both grandmothers of the baby were taken to be “drowned”. People remember that it used to be that the midwife was taken to be drowned, as she was the one who “fished out” that baby, thus after the baptism she would be returned to the aquatic realm.
VĖLINĖS (All Souls Day)
On the evening of Vėlinės the whole community — Lithuanian and Belarusian, young and old — gather at the village cemetery to sing hymns and pray for the deceased. The graves lit by candles, the hymns and prayers, are witness to the amity of the living and the dead.
KŪČIOS (Christmas Eve)
Children return to the homes of their parents on Christmas Eve to help prepare for the celebration. Everyone is seated at the table once the evening star rises, and after dinner the feast is left on the table overnight, to feed the spirits of deceased family and relatives. The hay that is spread under the tablecloth is given next morning to the animals in the barn.
(collecting of alms during the Christmas season)
After Christmas in each village people wait for the kalėdojantis priest to visit. The priest's visit to a home was a rare occasion and people would carefully prepare.
On Verbų sekmadienis (Palm Sunday), people would bless at church a verba made from juniper, willow branches, which were kept all year at home, tucked behind the holy painting or door frame; a year later they were taken to the attic or burned on Pelenų diena (Ash Wednesday).