Very Superstitious

A country with a long pagan history and rich folklife, Lithuania has a wealth of age-old superstitions that are still in practice today. Upon any extended visit to Lithuania, particularly to the villages and countryside, many strange customs and beliefs may invariably present themselves. These endearing traditions, passed down over generations, reveal the playful, creative spirit of the people. Below, to help guard you against surprise, misfortune or embarrassment, we've compiled a list of interesting customs and superstitions you may encounter while in Lithuania. Interestingly, this list was compiled entirely from the cooperation of several young people - further evidence that these practices are very much alive. If you think there is anything additional we should include, please let us know...

Above: Zygmus is a man of stiff drink and tradition. Oplia!


Lithuanian Customs and Superstitions:

It is common practice to bring a gift if you are visiting someone's home. An appropriate gift is a bottle of Krupnika, traditional Lithuanian honey liquor. Whether you've brought some or not, your host should produce a bottle of Krupnika upon your arrival and pour you a shot. Look your host in the eye and say either "Oplia" or "I sveikata" ('cheers'), then down that shot. Casually pour a shot for the person to your left, and they should likewise address you before taking the shot. The bottle goes around the table in this way until it is finished. (A drunk guest is a happy guest.)

Everybody knows that if you light a cigarette (or anything for that matter) from a candle, a sailor dies.

Never introduce yourself or shake hands through a threshold.

Don't place your bag on the floor - you'll lose money!

Don't whistle indoors - you'll inadvertently 'call little devils' to appear!

Don't sit at the corner of a table if you wish to marry soon. (You'll have to wait seven years. Oops!)

If a knife falls to the floor, it means you will soon have a male guest. If a fork falls, a female guest will visit. (Spoons are inconsequential - toss at will.)

If a bird shits on you, or if you accidentally step in shit (any old shit will do) - you'll be (filthy) rich!

If you are walking beside a friend and you split to bypass a post, street-sign etc., you will soon have a quarrel.

If swallows are flying low to the ground it will soon rain.

The 'smithereens' (ie broken pieces) of a mirror are good luck, but if you look into a broken mirror, you'll lose your beauty.

If you get a blemish on your nose, it means someone has fallen in love with you.

If your ears are hot and red it means someone is criticising you, but if your cheeks are hot and red, someone is complimenting you.

Black cats and breaking mirrors will earn you your run-of-the-mill bad luck, of course.

Walking on manholes is also bad luck, unless someone immediately knocks on your back once (obviously).

If you want to see your future, pour melted wax into a bowl of water - the shape it takes will forecast things to come.

Gestures:

One very popular way to avoid bad luck is to spit over your left shoulder three times (actually, projecting spittle isn't really necessary, it's more the gesture of pretending to spit...). Knocking on wood is also popular, of course. If you say something condemning like, "Man, I'm never going to get laid in this town!" the best recourse is to spit, knock, spit, knock, spit, knock. Crisis averted.

It's a common gesture to deny a request or respond in the negative by making an 'X' of one's forearms and tapping them together. This gesture commonly takes the place of shaking your head side-to-side and has a much more damning impact. You'll see.

A popular favorite is the old 'wooden head,' which we encourage you to work into your repertoire. You'll see this done more as a self-depreciating gesture than an insult, and there's no need to execute it slyly. It basically involves knocking on your head with one fist, while you knock on the underside of a table with the other.

Another strange custom occurs when two people say the same thing at the same time. Both parties must instantly make a wish, lock pinky fingers and count to three out loud. After 'three,' each person says either 'Adomas' or 'Iewa' (Adam or Eve); if you both say the same thing - your wishes come true. If not, well...no one really knows what happens, but you wouldn't wish it on yourself.

Christmas Eve Traditions:

Christmas is an especially magical time in Lithuania. On Christmas Eve water turns to wine and the animals speak openly when no one is listening (how convenient). Before the big traditional Christmas Eve dinner, the host may put pieces of straw of varying lengths under the tablecloth (though we really can't understand why you would do this to anyone). After dinner, each guest draws a straw. The length of the straw represents the length of your life - if you draw a short straw, you'll die soon (Merry Christmas!)

Also on Christmas Eve, if a girl wants to know the name of her future husband she must write down every name she can think of onto a slip of paper and put them into her pillowcase before falling asleep. In the morning, the name she draws will be the name of her future partner.

Marital Tradition:

When visitors cross into the district of Uzupis they will likely notice the padlocks all over the two bridges over the river Vilnia. This tradition was initiated by couples married at the Bernadine Church. Eternalising the commitment they have made to share their lives together, padlocks with the couple's name or initials and date are attached to the bridge. The keys are then ceremoniously tossed into the rushing waters of the Vilnia never to be recovered. [Oddly (and rather unromantically, we'd say), some couples choose not to observe this tradition, reserving the right to unlock their union...]

The "Stebuklas" Tile:

Located somewhere in Cathedral Square (superstition forbids us from revealing the exact coordinates) between the Cathedral and the Cathedral Belltower, visitors will find a tile with the colourfully mosaicked word "stebuklas" ("miracle") on it. This tile, the work of Lithuanian artist Gitenis Umrasas, supposedly marks the southern terminus where an estimated 2 million Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians linked hands in 1989 in a protest against Soviet occupation, creating a human chain stretching 650 km from Vilnius to Tallinn. Since then, the tile has become a symbol of hope and inspiration for Vilnius residents and visitors, encouraging people to believe in miracles and remember those they have experienced and may yet still experience.

To find the tile, look for people laughing and twirling about by the Cathedral. Said to have mystical properties, the stebuklas tile is a popular place for wish-making. If you have a secret desire or dream, step onto the tile, close your eyes, silently pronounce your wish or intention, and turn around clockwise three times... Either your wish will come true or you'll be magically transported back to 1989 (or both, depending what you wish for...).

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Loretta Summers from United States Reply Jan 7th, 2017

My grandma use to circle her finger in the palm of my hand while saying something in Lithuanian and spitting in my palm. What did that mean? My mother's name was Aldona. Is that a popular name in Lithuanian?

Algimantas from Canada Reply Jun 3rd, 2016

Is there something about don't let moonlight fall on you when you're asleep?

Vidmantas from United States Reply Nov 2nd, 2015

I was in the back yard and a bird shit on my nose. Now I am the owner of a successful electronics company. Hmm, can it be true?

Danute from Canada Reply May 31st, 2015

To 'her' . If you have nothing nice to say, you should keep your thoughts to yourself. How dare you speak this way of Lithuania and her people...

Danute from Canada Reply May 31st, 2015

To 'her' from United Kingdom. You are obviously a very ignorant person.. Perhaps you should read up on Lithuania and its people. I feel sorry for you that you would be so rude about a culture and place you know nothing about. If you have nothing nice to say ...don't say anything. !!!!!!

Dorothy Mikutis from United States Reply May 30th, 2015

I enjoyed reading this. Knew some. Enjoy so much learning about my heritage. 100% lithuanian

Virginija from Lithuania Reply May 30th, 2015

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abc from Lithuania Reply May 30th, 2015

"Superstition" about Krupnik, shots and happy guests is absolute nonsense. This is pure russian tradition. They brought this "habit" along with the occupation of Lithuania. Part of locals got used to it, of course. But not the majority. Lithuanians favorite drink for centuries was and still is beer.

Gustav from United Kingdom Reply Feb 24th, 2015

All this are rubbish...!

stanley from Nigeria Reply Jun 16th, 2014

I have never heard of all this and i am happy i heard it,well i have something to say i was walking one day and a bird had a shit on me ,so am gonna be flirty rich?i knew it LOL

Augustinas from Lithuania Reply Jan 13th, 2014

Heh, there's stuff i've never heard about before. You sure did your job good.

Bonnie from Canada Reply Apr 29th, 2013

We have guests a whole family (father, mother and son) who will be invited for supper but will poop in our house after supper one by one. Will this bring bad luck to our house?

Mary Ellen Lloyd from United States Reply Apr 6th, 2013

The one that I remember being told about is the whistling. My grandmother thought it was bad luck to whistle indoors; but I never knew why until now! She also always said if it rained or snowed heavily on your wedding day, you would wind up to be a very rich couple. Finally, she had one about birds in the house (although when we lived with her for a year, we had a parakeet and she let us keep it) - I forget what that was supposed to signify, though.

daniel c from Lithuania Reply Jan 4th, 2013

Lived here 9 years. Very accurate. Could add a couple refinements, but not of note. Very good list. These are optional in Vilnius, but in the countryside fairly strictly follwed.

Justina from United Kingdom Reply May 2nd, 2012

Most of it is true apart from the Krupnik bit. Lithuanian girl, it is not crows but swallows that fly low before rain. Everyone knows that. And yes, loads of suprestitious bits do come from watching the things around us, noticing the changes etc. The article did not imply we drink a lot. If you refer to the Krupnik bit, so that was a bit incorrect but did not try to portray us as a nation of drunks. Relax and don't take things so serious.

Lithuanian girl from Lithuania Reply Feb 19th, 2012

haha, To tell u the truth, guys, it seems that when u go to Lithuania the places you visit are the worst ever. First - a bit part of the population does not even drink :) Second - all the "superstitions" that you wrote down (except one) is for fun. The one, that is truth is about birds flying low (more commonly crows as far as i remember what my grandma used to say) its going to rain. And its not a superstition, its a simple way of watching and knowing nature. If you think this is a superstition then animals running away from the ocean when tsunami is coming is also a superstition. Try it out next time and go take pictures on the beach when a tsunami or a tornado is coming ;) Surely you'll be ok, knowing the nature is just a superstition :) the ignorance of people (and i see mostly western) is just astonishing. I wonder, what did you guys do in school.. Oh wait, as far as documentary and statistics say - vast majority of, for example, Americans don't even finish school and they have no idea where England is, but London they do know. Eh, stupidity is the worst decease of 21st century :)

Lithuanian American from United States Jun 7th, 2015

Every one in America knows where England is and 95% of us finish school. Stop listening to media and get your information from a resourceful site.

Lietuva Jun 7th, 2015

Are you even Lithuanian?

Kat from United States Reply Oct 22nd, 2011

My family had so many superstitions! Brought back memories of younger days. We also had traditions. On Christmas Eve we weren't allowed to eat meat. My mother didn't have straw, so she improvised and used straws(for drinking)! We each also had breaking of the Host, for good luck for the next year and to forgive what happened in the past.

Musie from United States Reply Aug 10th, 2011

For people wanting to find relatives in Lithuania, you can try writing to their post offices asking for information on the name you are looking for. Balzekas Lithuanian Museum in Chicago has good information. Also, try Facebook, I have found several there. Good luck to you! I found my relatives after our families were seperated for over 70 years :)

her from United Kingdom Reply Mar 24th, 2011

i hate Lithuanian.. here in UK they will show you who they really are.. proper twofaced people.. they dont care about you.. its all about the money.. they are embarrassing for their country..

Dianna from United States Dec 10th, 2014

@ Her from United Kingdom. My family is originally from Lithuania. I think most Lithuanians would be offended to read such a comment. Lithuanians are a very proud people. If you take some time read about our history, you would know and understand the hell the country of Lithuania has been through. Embarrassed for their country? Pick up a Lithuanian Heritage magazine some day. We are survivors and proud of everything we stand for and represent.

Ericka Shimkonis from United States Reply Feb 1st, 2011

I live in America; my parents have passed. I would love to find my cousins, family, etc. in Lithuania.

Betty Jo Zengveles Bake from United States Reply Nov 21st, 2010

My Daddy came from Bapti,Lithuania, I visited there in 2000. I would love to talk to someone from Bapti...

Karolina Ona from Lithuania Reply Nov 17th, 2010

I had so much fun reading this! It's not true about us drinking so much but everything else is so true! Awesome

Laurie, Albany NY from United States Reply May 28th, 2010

I loved this. My mom use to tell me so many superstitions. Does anyone know one where if you leave your home and forget something, you must sit down and count to ten before you can get it and rush out of the house again? Or.. if you drop your comb while combing your hair, you must step on it or you will be disappointed??? Of what, I still don't know... (think I dropped a lot of combs in my day! lol)

AE from United States Reply Mar 5th, 2010

esta gente es tonta de verdad yo tengo una supersticion tb lituana... SI MEAR EN ESQUINA HARA UN TIEMPO O OTRO q asko yolos e conocido de cerca y si quereis hacerme caso tened cuidado

ali from Qatar Reply Jul 1st, 2009

I laughed so much and found really amazing. some of the superstitions really sound interesting. we here in gulf of dont have many of them and care not a lot about superstitions.

myralee sibellio from United States Reply May 14th, 2009

this is kind of kool country the koolest i ever study so far

Jeffrey from United States Reply Mar 11th, 2009

Another Russian super is the cross breeze in a home, building or car is not permitted. "Take your spirit away" A friend actually saw an older Russian lady on a bus in Vilnius get upset when somebody opened a window accross from another opened window. She made him shut it!

Yan from United States Reply Nov 27th, 2008

The superstion about if you look in the mirror you will lose your beauty, does anyone know how to reverse that or has some background on it?

Kristina from Canada Reply Oct 10th, 2008

My father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and 2nd cousins are from Lietuva...my grandmother told me some of these. Maybe the russians learned them during one of their invasions. Reading them now brings back fond memories!

igor from United States Reply Jul 14th, 2008

99% of these superstitions are actually RUSSIAN and or influenced by ex-USSR countries superstitions none of them are lithuanian!

Sue from United States Reply May 30th, 2008

Interesting page! The bird feces superstition was especially interesting. I've never felt lucky when a bird defecated on me! My Grandmother was Lithuanian. She has passed on now, but I think of her and her culture often.

Sue from United States Reply May 30th, 2008

Interesting page! The bird feces superstition was especially interesting. I've never felt lucky when a bird defecated on me! My Grandmother was Lithuanian. She has passed on now, but I think of her and her culture often.

Ted Zudyk from United States Reply Dec 25th, 2007

Liked the article, had heard some of the things you mentioned. Two that my mother always reminded me of were: 1. Never let the light of the full moon shine on you when you sleep, its bad luck. 2. Its bad luck and someone will die if you hear an owl calling at night.

Meveckus from United States Reply Dec 24th, 2007

I thought the article was sweet and interesting. My last name is Lithuanian but I do not know the actual Lithuanian spelling.

dank from United States Reply Oct 19th, 2007

My best friend Omni is a Lithuanian and he loves dancing in dog crap. :)

Bri from United States Jun 7th, 2014

Yeah yeah

Gum from United States Reply Oct 12th, 2007

Zygmus, when are you coming to Krakow? This bottle's on me!

G. from Lithuania Reply Oct 9th, 2007

A lot of the mentioned superstitions are practised indeed. However, the one about honey mead (Krupnik, which does not sound Lithuanian at all) may vary from family to family or, rather, from person to person. Normally, you don't treat every visitor with a shot of honey mead, vodka or whatever the alcohol you have. You offer a cup of tea or more often coffee. You offer alcohol for a guest when there's some kind of occasion or if you haven't seen each other for a long time, which is also a kind of occasion to celebrate. However, I think it is increasingly becoming common among young people to drink wine or other low-alcohol drinks. Beer is very popular. But if a company consists only of guys, then they will definitely drink wodka or beer (beer woud prevail).

Lisa from United States Reply Jul 8th, 2007

I loved this web site. My father told me that the staw under the table cloth on Christmas Eve was a reminder of the birth of Jesus Christ.

aby from United Kingdom Reply May 10th, 2007

You're not talking about superstition but about normal things usual in every country.

Ann from United Kingdom Apr 20th, 2016

Yes, these superstitions exist in all countries. Years ago they were very common in England and Ireland.