December 25, 2014


Merry Christmas everyone! While picking camellias from the greenhouse for our Christmas Eve dinner,- I thought that I might share some images from our Christmas around here, which we celebrated last night on the 24th in goog, Lithuanian traditional style - most of my brothers and sisters attended ( the ones from the East coast) and their children, and Joe's nieces, nephews and childhood friends. As this is the first year without my Dad, (it would have been in 101st Christmas in this house)  we still wanted to hold this dinner that the Lithuanians call Kūčios, according to the Wikipedia, it's described as this:

 Everyone in a family makes a special effort to come home for the Christmas Eve supper, even from great distances. They make the journey not so much for the meal as for the sacred ritual of Kūčios. Kūčios draws the family members closer, banding everyone together and strengthening the family ties. In this spirit, if a family member has died that year or cannot attend the meal (only for very serious reasons) an empty place is left at the table. A plate is still placed on the table and a chair is drawn up, but no spoons, knives or forks are set. A small candle is placed on the plate and lit during the meal. It is believed that the spirit of the deceased family member participates in the Kūčios along with everyone.

We still set a place at the table for the departed. I know, it seems a little creepy, but when you've been doing it for your entire life, it truly becomes tradition. I went with mix and match china as it seemed to fit with out theme of 'family artifacts' found in the cellar. Like old ski's only snowshoes, and old pinecones from past trips. Camellias from the greenhouse helped round out all the old mercury class on the table.
For more images from our Christmas celebration - click below.

The table was set for 16, and we decided to hand portraits of my parents on the wall, as this was my fathers painting studio back in the 1960's when it was built onto our original house ( I know, the room still looks like it!). One of these days I am going to get rid of the wood paneling, but it's a big room and it needed a lot of prep work.

Instead of a big piece of chalkboard art, or a bog 18 foot tree, we opted for a more random and casual display - rods with wrapped christmas lights! These edison lights and white twinkle lights helps set the mood - and once it is dark outside, no one ever knew that the room actually has very little lighting in it.

The look was indeed, old fashioned and a little less formal.  We didn't have to  buy anything, depending in stead on found objects.

In the kitchen, I am stuffing my face with a bacon-wrapped shrimp! Our menu this year included roast Prime Rib, mashed potatoes, a winter salad of Frisee, endives, pomegranate and blood orange, along with veggies like Brussels sprouts with toasted hazelnuts and a chocolate brioche pudding.

Why is it that everyone wants to hang out in the kitchen?

Another traditional Lithuania event aside from the beet soup and Silke. which is pickled herring, is this flat wafer called Kalédatis. Every guest at the table takes a piece, and exchanges a piece with everyone else, offering a wish for the coming new year.  I can still remember my dad always says that his wish was that we woudl all be together next year. In so many ways, this way, we were. Same house, same fmaily, same table and friends.

We are Catholic Lithuanians, but abotu 1/2 of our friends are Jewish, who also attend dinner - no problem food-wise, as our kugulis, virtineae and herring, as well as brown bread, and other dishes are so similar in both religions. Eastern Europe is still, Eastern Europe.

..And we had a visie from Santa Dog too! Fergie loved his new wool winter sweater complete with squirrels and nuts. Merry Christmas to all!


  1. Greetings from the Pacific Northwest!

    What a wonderful post! I'm jealous that you grew up among such wonderful traditions. My family had nothing like those and in fact we scattered all over the country as soon as we were able to.

    I have been enjoying your blog for several years now, and although I read it for the plant content, I really enjoy the hearing the snippets here and there about your life.

    Happy 2015 and thanks for taking the time to write.

  2. My name is Tiziano and I read your post fron Italy
    I do not spek English therefore I look the pictures of our plants.
    But the atmosphere today need not traslation! It is beautiful!
    Thank matt

  3. Matt, this was fun for me to read, as I have Lithuanian friends. Birute and I began writing as pen pals before their independence from the USSR. After their independence, they eventually emigrated (from Kaunas) to the US and I was their contact person. They now live in Oak Lawn (Chicago), IL, which has a large Lithuanian community.

    Merry Christmas!

  4. This was fun for me to read as well, but for the entirely opposite reason. It was new to me. I like the empty plate without the silverware tradition. I think the doggy in his new clothes is so cute. We mix and match, too, and oddly enough, camellias are the Christmas flower here, but grown outside.

  5. everything, the food; the decorations; and especially the traditions is just perfect and lovely! i am dying over that mural in the kitchen!!

    thank you for sharing!


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