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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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If a Lithuanian invites you to dinner… || Survival tips

I’ve read on numerous occasions that people from Eastern Europe are best described as generous and extremely hospitable. So generous, in fact, that the majority of them would pull out their heart and give it to a, well, a good friend, a relative or even a foreigner. This hospitality can seem pushy and intrusive, especially when it comes down to drinking and eating habits, but they mean well.

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I took my non-Lithuanian fiancé to Lithuania several times, but one particular incident still pops up whenever he is asked to share his views on cultural differences.

While in Vilnius, we were both invited to visit my friend’s parent’s house for some lunch. The couple was very friendly and excited to see us both, as they also had a daughter who had moved to the UK a while ago and is now living with her English husband. So they instantly felt this bond – as if I was their immigrant daughter – and put on a show with three course meal.

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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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