Sunday, March 25, 2018

Verbų sekmadienis - Palm Sunday in Lithuania

I saved a couple of posts about our visit to the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago on August 8, 2017, for this week, Holy Week, the last week of Lent. Today is Palm Sunday, a week before Easter, and here's a little about how the day, Verbų sekmadienis, is celebrated in Lithuania.

One of the displays at the Museum in the Women's Guild Room were these unusual dried floral items.

A label said these were Palm Sunday bouquets from the Vilnius region.  On Palm Sunday, 

...plant branches (palms or others), called verba in Lithuania, are blessed in churches.  In some countries (for example in the U.S.) everyone entering the church is given a blessed palm frond or sprig of leaves.  In Lithuania, the people brought the verba to church themselves.  
These verba could be simple: bunches of juniper and pussy willows, or sometimes quite elaborate, plaited from dried plants, flowers, and bent-grass (Vilnius "verba").  It was considered a disgrace to arrive at church without a verba.  It was said that the devil himself gave such a person his tail to hold all through the services. 
After these verba were blessed in church, they were brought home, dried and put away.  When the dried juniper needles fell off, they were stored in a small box or bag and used to scent the house during a heavy storm or other occasions.  The bare branches were placed under the roof as protection against lightning.

You can find verba today at the annual Kaziuko mugė or Saint Casimir's Fair, held in Vilnius the weekend before or including the Feast of St. Casimir, which is March 4.  As the earliest date Palm Sunday can possibly be each year is March 15, this works well.  This folk arts and crafts fair dates back to the early 1600s and includes music and dancing.  Verbos made from colorful dried wild flowers and herbs chosen from about 150 possibilities are tied around a wooden stick.  Making this traditional symbol of spring and Easter is an endangered craft, as the process is difficult and time-consuming, and it's harder to find flowers and herbs or special dyes to color them. 

In the photograph below, verba are being sold outside the Church of All Saints in the Vilnius Old Town in April 1916.

Above:  Vilnietė pardavinėja verbas prie Visų šventųjų bažnyčios Rūdninkų gatvėje, 1916 m. [9 April 1916] / Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

© Amanda Pape - 2018 - click here to e-mail me.

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