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January 13: Independence Commemoration

This date commemorates those killed or wounded by Soviet troops on January 13, 1991 with wreaths appearing on the pavement where partisans were killed. Lithuanians visit their graves, which are in one spot at the principal cemetery at Antakalnis, vilnius where most national heroes are buried. Usually there is a special Mass in the Cathedral of Vilnius and prayers are said for the dead and the bishop talks about the event in his sermon, and the ongoing relevance that it has, especially for young people.

February 16: Independence Day [1918] At the beginning of World War I in 1914, Russia troops stationed in Lithuania invaded the German territory of East Prussia. The invasion failed, and German troops ultimately occupied Lithuania. During the time of German occupation Lithuanian patriots struggled to organise themselves and to convince the Germans to grant independence to Lithuania. In September 1917 the Germans set up a Vertrauensrat, a representative council for dialogue between the German government and the people of Lithuania. At a meeting in Vilnius on 16 February 1918 members of the Council (Lietuvos Taryba) decided to declare independence. The opening words of the declaration were: The Council of Lithuania, during its meeting of 16 February 1918, unanimously decided to address Russia, Germany and other nations with the following declaration: The Council of Lithuania, as the only representative of the Lithuanian people, basing itself on the recognised principle of self-determination, and the decision of the Lithuanian Conference in Vilnius on 18-23 September 1917, proclaims restoration of an independent Lithuanian nation based on democratic foundations, with its capital in Vilnius. Furthermore, this nation is to be freed from any unions with other nations which had previously existed.

March 11: Independence Day [1990] Under Gorbachev_s perestroika reforms, an election for the „Supreme Soviet“ [Auksciausioji Taryba] was held in February of 1990. For the first time since Lithuania_s annexation by the USSR, candidates other than Communists were allowed. Under the guidance of Dr. Vytas Landsbergis, the „Sajudis“ movement nominated candidates and subsequently won a majority in parliament. On March 10, Vytas Landsbergis was elected „Speaker“ or „President“ of the parliament. The following day, March 11, 1990, the parliament proclaimed a severing of ties with the USSR and a restoration of the Republic of Lithuania as it existed prior to the Soviet invasion and annexation of June-July 1940.

March:Uzgavenes: SHROVETIDE Shrovetide,or Uzgavenes, is celebrated in March on _Shrove_ Tuesday, the last day before the 40-day fast traditional for Catholics. Uzgaveti means „to eat well and heartily.“ Shrovetide is full of humour, jokes, superstitions, fortune-telling,and feasting to celebrate the end of winter. It is a merry carnival, a masquerade full of pranks, with a drama performed outdoors to say goodbye to winter and welcome to spring.

At dusk, men don humorous, satirical, or animal costumes. Some dress as evil spirits or demons with pitchforks. They go from house to house, deriding housewives or workers lagging behind in their chores. Many people dress up as traditional characters. Some become _Kanapinis the Hemp Man, because during Lent hemp oil is used; a thief looking for something to steal, the pretending beggar; or characters rarely seen in the village, the doctor and the soldier. Men disguise themselves as women, women disguise themselves as men. _More a symbol of the clash between winter and spring, is wheeled about in a cart. In one hand she holds a flail, in the other a broom. She cannot make up her mind whether she should continue to flail last year_s harvest or start sweeping the yard and doing the spring cleaning.

March/April: Velykos: Easter The spring equinox begins the many springtime celebrations. Christianity incorporated Lithuanian equinox traditions into Easter, and replaced the ancient Lithuanian name with the slavic work „Velykos“, ie. Easter. „Pavasario Lyge“ meaning Spring Equinox, remains the only non-Christian name for the holiday.

The verba, usually made of juniper, birch and willow twigs interwoven with coloured papers and flowers, symbolised the forces of life, the birth of new life and rebirth of nature. It also improves health. Before or on the Easter morning everyone tries to rise as early as possible in order to catch the other family members sleeping, and whip them awake. This insures good health. The person whipped gives the person whipping a multicoloured and decorated egg called a margutis (plural is marguciai). The traditional Easter foods include eggs, marguciai, cheeses, farmer_s cheese, cakes, ham, and oat sprouts. The meal starts with the exchange and hitting of marguciai.

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