Kalėdos susideda iš dviejų skirtingos semantikos švenčių – išvakarių dienos, vadinamos Kūčiomis (gruodžio 24) ir Kalėdų (gruodžio 25-26).

KŪČIOS - gruodžio 24 d., Kalėdų išvakarėse švenčiama šventė. Dabar tai paprastai yra šeimos ar artimiausių draugų vakarienė. KŪČIOS būdavo didelė šventė prie apeiginio stalo, lydima apeigų, burtų, aukų. Prieš Kūčias žmonės stengėsi užbaigti darbus. Kūčių dieną buvo draudžiama malti, skaldyti malkas, kulti, nes triukšmą sukėliantys darbai busimą vasarą sukelia audringus debesis su krušomis. Pasiruoše šventėms žmonės pagal apeigas prausdavosi.

Kūčias pradėdavo valgyti užtekėjus Vakarinei žvaigždei. Stalą apdėdavo šienu, dalį jo dėdavo ir pastalėn. Ant šieno klodavo staltiesę ir statydavo patiekalus. Pastatydavo žvakių, kartais - nekulta rugių pėdą, pavoždavo po puodu akmenį. Prie stalo pakviesdavo kaiminystėje esančius bešeimius, samdinius. Prieš valgydami visi atsistodavo. Vyriausiasis garsiai melsdavosi, o paskui visi vieni kitiems linkėdavo sveikatos, laimės. Pirmiausia valgydavo kūčią. Dalis maisto būdavo atiduodama vėlėms, paaukojama dievams. Per Kūčias taip pat kurendavo ugnį, degindavo šiaudų kulius ar trinką, kuria buvo pervilke kaimo gatve persirengėliai.

Verti dėmesio yra Kūčių burtai. Iš po staltiesės būdavo traukiamas šienas: ilgas šiaudas reiškė ilgą ir laimingą gyvenimą. Žvaigždėtas dangus, į krūvas susibūrusios žvaigždės reiškė derlingus metus, deslias vištas, daug grybu. Smarkus vėjas- daug riešutų ir laukinių obuolių. Jei daug lijo, tikėtasi gerų miežių.

Kūčoms nuo seno gamindavo 12 ar 13 patiekalų: kūčia - gaminama iš javų, avižinis kisielius, mišrainės, šližikai, arba kučiukai, barščiai su grybais, žuvis (ypač mėgta lydeka - vaisingumo simbolis), gručės košė - miežinių kruopų košė, valgyta su aguonų pienu. Tai turbūt simbolizavo 13-os ar 12-os mėnesių metus, skaičiuojamus pagal Mėnuli .


The Christmas celebration consists of two different meaning celebrations – eve day called „KŪČIOS“ or Christmas eve (the 24th of December) and Christmas (the 25th and 26th of December).

Christmas eve is celebrated in the 24th of December. Nowadays during the Christmas eve family members and the closest friends gathers for the supper. Christmas eve used to be a big celebration with rituals, lots, sacrifices. Before Christmas eve people used to finish all works. In the day of Christmas eve it was forbidden to grind, split woods, trash, because it was a belief, that if you make noisy works the coming summer will be cloudy with hail. When everybody was prepared to celebrate Christmas eve, people washed themselves according to the rituals.

When evening star raised, people used to start eating the Christmas eve supper. There used to put lots of hay on the table and under it. The table cover was always put on the hay and then the dishes were brought. The candles were also on the table as well as untraced rye foot and pot covered with stone. The workers and people without families were also invited to the supper. Before starting eating everybody used to stand up. The senior used to pray loudly, after that everybody wished health and happiness to each other. „Kūčia“ or traditional Christmas eve bread was eaten first, followed by the rest of the meal. A part of the meal used to be given to the souls, sacrificed to the gods. Also the fire was heated, the peals of straws or wood block was burned.

The Christmas eve sorceries are worth attention. Hay straws were drawn from under the table: the long straw meant a long and happy life. The starry sky and many groups of stars meant good year for the crops, good layer hens, lots of mushrooms. Strong wind meant many nuts and wild apples. If it rained a lot people believed in good barley.

From the ancient times for the Christmas eve there were made 12 or 13 dishes: „kūčia“ (a mix of oats, barley, and other grains),  bean, grain and vegetable based salads, „slizikai“ or „kuciukai“, borsch with mushrooms, fish (especially pike – the symbol of fecundity), porridge of „gruce“ – barley groats porridge, eaten with the poppy milk. Probably it used to symbolize 13 or 12 months per year, counted after the moon.


------For those who want to invoke a less than Christian view about this KŪČIOS holiday -see the below--
As presented on the internet by-  Inija Trinkuniene ,The leader of Vilnius Baltic Religion Community-Research fellow, Institute for Social Research, Lithuania

“Two important holidays – KŪČIOS and Kalėdos – mark the end of the year – when the world returns to darkness and non-existence. However, as death begets birth, the two holidays also herald the rebirth of nature and the return of the sun. The Lithuanians distinguish the two subsequent days, now celebrated on 24 and 25 December with a variety of ritual customs.

Indo-European cultures traditionally greet the New Year with rituals and tales that reenact and relate the creation of the world.

Adults begin their preparation for KŪČIOS and Kalėdos by placing a cherry twig in water on the day when bears start to hibernate, which is the first day of winter according to folklore. The twigs sprout roots in time for the holiday. Children play games symbolizing the planting of crops such as the one wherein girls imitate sowing, by strewing hemp seeds, which prompts dreams about future husbands.

The ancient calendar feast days are special because they help man experience the main segments of life: birth – maturity – old age – death. Such calendar helps man realize and live through the circle of life, all the while preparing for the trip to the other side. Folk calendar songs and rites reveal the secrets of the circle of life. Creation of the world and its dispersion, is celebrated in an ancient Lithuanian Christmas song:

A pear tree stands in the middle of the field, Kalėda
Oh! And a spark fell, Kalėda
Oh! And the blue sea spilled over, Kalėda
On that sea – a ship is sailing, Kalėda
In that ship – a chair stands, Kalėda
On that chair – a girl sits, Kalėda

This is a Southern Lithuanian winter solstice song. The word kalėda refers to the time of Winter solstice. A candle burns in a pear tree – in the world tree. The fire of the candle is the sacred altar fire. A spark fals, creating the sea – moving the sacred waters, awakening the universal force of life. The song is usually sung during Winter Solstice, when lighting a new fire for the new year.

The solemn feast of KŪČIOS unites the living with the dead as well as all forms of life: people and animals. The house requires special preparation. The family hangs up an iconic "grove:" birds made of wood- straw or egg shells surrounding a straw sun. This grove as well as a multitude of burning candles invokes the souls of the dead (vėlė) who sit at a small table with bread, salt, and Kūčia on it. The Kūčia contains many traditional grains which symbolize regeneration: cooked wheat, barley, peas, beans, rye, poppy seeds, hemp seeds, etc. mixed with nuts and honey water. The Kūčia feeds the souls of the ancestors. as well as the living. The living sit at another table, covered with hay and a table cloth. In earlier days, hay also used to cover the floor. Symbols of the life force, which sustain the human world, decorate the main table. This includes a bundle of unthrashed rye, which the family used the next day to bind around its apple trees.

KŪČIOS, an exclusively nocturnal celebration, begins when the evening star appears in the sky. Before gathering at the ritual table, everybody bathes in saunas, makes up with their neighbors, and forgives their enemies. In olden days, the head of the household, wearing high black boots, a large black sash (juosta), and a prominent black hat – used to circle the farmstead three times. He would approach the house door after evervbody else had entered. To the question "Who is there?", he answered "Dearest God (Dievulis) with the Kūčia begs admittance".

Once the family gathers, the eldest member (man or woman) says a traditional invocation and breaks the Kūčia bread, which everybody gives to each other. According to the sixteenth century historian Praetorius, every member of the family, placing a loaf of bread on the floor, prayed: "Žemėpatis (God of the homestead), we thank you for the good bread you give us. Help us work the fields while blessing you, that Žemynėlė (Mother Earth Goddess, sister of Žemėpatis ) would continue to give us your good gifts." Then everyone, raising the bread to the sky, concluded with: "Nourish us".

After the exchange of the Kūčia bread, each person sips some beer, spilling few drops onto the floor for the vėlės, the souls of the dead. Dinner follows. KŪČIOS traditionally required 13 different foods, which echoed the 13 lunar months of the year. Under the influence of the solar calendar, the number changed to 12. The foods may not contain any meat or milk. The meal consists of Kūčia (mixed grain dish described above), Kisielius (a type of cranberry jello), hot beet soup, mushroom dumplings, cabbage, fish, and seafood.

Animals partake in the ceremony by eating the same food that people eat. When people and animals used to live under one roof, everybody fed their household and farm animals from the table. On farms. families still feed their animals with the leftovers from KŪČIOS. The families also share the food with bees and fruit trees.

After dinner, while everyone remains at the table, the children and young people pull straws of hay out from underneath the tablecloth. A long straw represents a long and prosperous life. The adults too would tell their own fortunes im a variety of ways.

Participants exchange wishes for each other by pouring grains into the hearth fire. The hearth becomes the sacred fire of the home. Each single grain sown in the fire grows and prospers. The family also ritually burns a birch wreath, stump, or log in the hearth, representing the old year The participants can also destroy evil by burning splinters they invest with meaning.”