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Festivities at the Lithuanian Country Club in Hampshire || Events

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It’s that time of year for Lithuanians in the UK – the celebration of Sekmines. Perhaps one of the main annual events within the community, this get-together traditionally takes place at the Lithuanian Headley Park Country Club ‘Sodyba’ in Sleaford near Bordon, Hampshire.

This long-living tradition of celebrating Sekmines (Pentecost, also called Whitsun) is probably better known among Lithuanians in the UK as the ‘second bank holiday weekend in May’, and provides an excellent chance of reconnecting with our roots, so to speak. If the weather happens to be glorious, the Lithuanian homestead in Hampshire can easily accommodate over 500 guests, enjoying their picnics on its beautiful surroundings.

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On Lithuanian stereotypes, immigration and… art || Away in UK

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“The British feel the competition and they don’t like it, because it makes them work harder”, observes Rokas, a 20 year old Lithuanian photography student, currently living in London.

This and many more rather bold statements are featured in a short documentary story recently produced by Gerifilmai.com, and available online.

And no, Rokas does not pick strawberries in Kent; he wouldn’t know how to lay bricks, and he certainly feels rather upset by the Lithuania-related stereotypes we all have to shake off.

The video is rather short and slightly too one-dimensional to fully explore the subject of immigration impact on the British economy, or the perception of Lithuanians in the UK, but perhaps the slow pace of the interview is proof that there are decent, normal Lithuanian people out there who don’t have to drink drive or commit murder in order to attract attention.

Twelve dishes and no booze; a Lithuanian Christmas

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Growing up in Soviet era, I used to celebrate Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s farm in a small village near Prienai. Called Kūčios in Lithuanian (pronounced as koo-chios), the 24th of December is more important than Christmas day, and is the time best suited for bidding farewell to the year that has passed. It is also an exceptionally family-orientated celebration, with a long standing tradition that encourages inviting a lonely neighbor to join in with the diners.

Being an elderly lady who took care of a self-sufficient little farm, my grandmother made sure everyone obeyed the Christmas Eve rules. She’d bring a small stack of hay and spread it on the table, covering it with a crisp, white tablecloth, and the day would be spent preparing the food, and cleaning.

There are no starters, main courses or puddings, as it is customary to prepare a total of twelve dishes, each symbolising one of Jesus’ apostles. All the food must be prepared with local produce, and any exotic ingredients should be avoided. The most popular Christmas Eve dishes include fish, herring, pulses, vegetables, mushrooms, sauerkraut, dried fruit, small bread biscuits with poppy seed milk, and bread.

The main, traditional dish of the night, called Kūčia (koo-cha) is made from poppy seeds, grains, pulses, and hemp seeds mixed with nuts, honey and water. No meat is allowed on the menu. During the evening, everyone can help themselves to any meal they want in any particular order, but they must have at least some of each.

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My Unofficial Oath of Immigration || 35 Things I Do to Integrate

1. I can speak English. I also understand English, and quite a few of the accents, although getting the jokes is sometimes tricky. So, I use subtitles while watching ‘Have I got news for you’ or ‘Mock the week’.

2. I show interest in sports. I can’t call myself a footie gal, but I do watch snooker, and find curling rather amusing.

3. I love pets or animals in general. I would report anyone hurting or kicking their dog to RSPCA without a doubt. I adore watching birds, squirrels and even slugs which seem to be in plentiful number this year.

4. I love a good laugh. I don’t get upset being called ‘sneaky f***g Russian’ as a joke like Boris the Blade from Snatch, even though I am Lithuanian.

5. I absolutely love walks in the countryside.

6. I don’t despise tea with milk, and I always look forward to the occasional full English breakfast. I’ve even come to love custard and Yorkshire pudding. Marmite is still in the pipeline though.

7. I celebrate Easter, Christmas, Mother’s and Valentine’s Day, and of course it’s hard to complain about general Bank Holidays (except that there are not enough of them). I also post tens of Christmas cards, and I sign them all personally. I even send RSVPs to event/function organisers if I am asked to.

8. I remember to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and will send out ‘Thank You’ cards / emails / letters as appropriate after attending a meeting, an event, a reception or a dinner party. I will even send ‘Thank you’ cards to estate agents and solicitors if they did a good job. I try to give feedback and testimonials to the companies who performed well, and give feedback (or complain) if they didn’t.

9. I will wait in queues at the Post Office. I will even let someone go ahead of me if they are merely getting one letter sent, and I have a pile of packages of various sizes. I gave up the queue jumping technique a long time ago.

10. I say ‘sorry’ if someone bumps into me.

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