All Saints’ Night in Vilnius

For All Saints’ Day (1 November), which is something like the Christian version of Halloween, it is customary to visit the cemetery and leave flowers and candles behind for the deceased relatives and friends. The custom seems to be respected mainly in Catholic areas and countries and even between them there are some differing traditions. From Southern Germany for example, I only remember visiting the cemetery during the day and leaving flowers. In Lithuania however, the whole affair is much spookier and more romantic: the visits to the cemetery happen late at night and thousands of candles light the cemetery.

Some graves are clearly more popular than others. The following photo shows the grave where the Lithuanian author Balys Sruoga is buried. I just started reading his book “Forest of the Gods” about the experience in a Nazi concentration camp.

I took these photos during a tour which was organised by a local Couchsurfing member and which included Saulės, Bernardinų and Rasų cemeteries in Vilnius.

(C) for all photos: Andreas Moser on 1 November 2012

About Andreas Moser

You will most likely find me in the forest, next to the lake, reading a book. Just follow the cigar smoke!
This entry was posted in Death, Lithuania, Photography, Religion, Travel and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to All Saints’ Night in Vilnius

  1. Definitely spooky!!! I was educated in parochial school and on All Saints Day we used ro go to Mass. I like your traditon far better!

  2. Along the lines of the Mexican “Dia De Los Muertos” (Day of the Dead), where the deceased of the past year are honoured and “assisted” in finding their way into the afterlife with fireworks and candy.
    Isn’t Halloween originally tied to All Saints’ Day? I thought there was the story that on the evening before all the saints were feted, that evil spirits/Satan could slip out of Hell (since Heaven was “distracted” by the upcoming festival) and that all the spooky costumes and lights were supposed to ward off those evil spirits/Satan/whatever until sunrise drove them back to Hell.
    Or am I just mish-mashing my mythology education again? ;)

  3. Irena says:

    Dear Andreas,, All Saint’s day in Lithuania hasn’t connection with Halloween at all. So the first sentence in your article is definitely wrong.
    Irena

    • I know. That sentence was not to be taken at face value.

    • Skaistis says:

      It should also be added that this is more pagan tradition than christian one. In Lithuania we usually celebrate Vėlinės – Souls of the Dead Day (Nov 2nd), not All Saints’ Day (Nov 1st) .Just for some reason church decided that it would better to have holiday on All Saint’s Day :) In result people celebrate Vėlinės on All Saints Day.

  4. Zio Alberto says:

    Dear Andreas, Irena is completely right.

    Moreover is the commercial Halloween that is the american copy of the Christian All Saint’s day and not the contrary.

    Americans normally take what others have in their countries and Americanize it by transforming into an uglier and Frankestein-like version of it.

    Take for example: American football and Rugby, Baseball and Cricket, an healthy sandwich and an hot dog,… All Saints day and Halloween.

    You see? My logic Andreas is very very very very simple: it is a logic of a country boy who had the chance to study abroad.

    Cheers mate :)

    • Oh, come on, Zio, America hasn’t ruined EVERYTHING we’ve imported! Let’s see, there’s …. um … er … give me a minute here …. ;) :D

      • Zio Alberto says:

        On the other hand there are many very positive aspects about the U.S. but I’ll wait for a new post by Andreas to reveal them.

        For the moment John try to persuade Romney (who will win the elections I fear) to NOT bomb Northern Italy for the things I have said.

        OH NO!!! I just revealed my position!!! :) :D

        Alberto

      • Don’t worry, Zio, you guys are safe. After all, you own Chrysler now. Romney needs to wreck OUR economy first – THEN he’ll come after Europe! (Right after he nukes Iran and “makes China play fair” with a few thousand drone strikes. ;) )

  5. Irena says:

    But anyway the article is good . I am glad you visited Lithuania and it’s cemetery, wrote about this Lithuanian customary and put nice pictures. I will give your link to my Australian friends. I hope you agree? Thank you in advance. Irena from Klaipėda/ Lithuania

    • Of course I agree! In fact, I am very happy about it. I hope they will like my photography and writing enough to invite me to come to Australia (again). ;-)

      • Irena says:

        Yes, of course they will like ! Some of them have been in Lithuania and want to know about this old country more and more. And i hope they will like your impressions. Are you Estonian? When did you visit OZ?

      • No, I am from Germany. I was in Adelaide, South Australia on student exchange for 3 months in 1992. It was fantastic!

  6. Irena says:

    Excellent ! The world became very small. By the way a tour to Vilnius cemeteries was organised by my daughter .She is a student of Vilnius University. I am proud of her!

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