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Top 10 Lithuanian gift ideas for Christmas

We’ve all been there. It’s easy to buy a traditionally French gift (some perfume or a bottle of exquisite champagne), a gift with a Spanish flavour (a hamper full of chorizo sausage and wines, or a set of terracotta tapas dishes) or even a typical Russian gift (usually a doll called matrioshka). If you are a Lithuanian national stranded somewhere in Europe, it is rather tricky to find a symbolic yet unforgettable Lithuanian gift for someone special.

I’ve recently picked up a brochure published by Lithuanian State Department of Tourism entitled “25 things not to miss in Lithuania”, and the 23rd thing not to be missed was called “Lithuanian handicrafts”:

Traditional Lithuanian handicrafts, such as artistic linen, ceramic or amber articles, can make beautiful decorations for your home or great gifts.

And I couldn’t agree more. One thing is to go to Lithuania and shop for those items at numerous fairs and markets; however, shopping for Lithuanian art or Lithuanian linen products while abroad becomes more difficult. Here’s my selected list of recommended retailers specialising in just about anything Lithuanian you can think of.

1. Amber and silver pendant

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By Ula © Ona.com

Think Lithuania, think amber. If traditional amber bead necklaces are not your cup of tea, opt for something more modern and subtle.
Available from: Ona.com

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Poking fun at immigration

Not sure what happened, but in the last couple of weeks Lithuanian Jotter received quite a few comments, and they really inspired me to post more regularly. I apologise for such a long wait, so in order to get back on track I‘d like to share my little collection of excellent cartoons that were published in British newspapers over the last year or so, which are much more descriptive than any post on this blog. So, Eastern Europeans in the eyes of British cartoonists:

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‘Santa’s Polish, dad’

©Metro, December 2006

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‘Oh, stop moaning! The poor man’s flown all the way from Poland to treat your septic toe.’

© Mac, Daily Mail, 17 January 2008

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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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