Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Eve in Vilnius

Of course I had meant to get the Christmas tree at the end of last week; I had seen some outside the supermarket but found the price of around 15 Euros a bit outrageous.... Then I had spotted some being sold outside the opera house, but at that moment had no time. Another day, after a run, I did not get back down the stairs from my eerie....

So it was that on Christmas Eve we were still minus a tree. No problem; people will be selling them off cheap, I thought.


First yesterday was already a non-working day, what with it being between a Sunday and a public holiday. What they do here is that they work on the Saturday and then get the linking day off - not a soul was to be seen in the Military Police opposite me by 1 pm on Saturday....
So whereas in the UK on Christmas Eve shops are going crazy until late, in Germany they go crazy until about 2pm, in Lithuania yesterday not many shops were open. Outside the supermarket on Sunday I had only seen two miserable little trees - but I had been very early, so maybe the delivery had not arrived. Decided instead to try the opera house (zilch), and the little farmer's market - it at least was partially open (not normally on a Monday - I had been a bit worried about that). Spotted a reasonably sized, albeit skinny, high class of Christmas tree - a mere 50 Euros would have secured it. Moving quickly on we clocked a guy taking a small tree into his shed; bit small and bit expensive for height. There was always the garden centre next door - we could see trees in their lock-up - but the garden centre was also locked up. So back we skedaddled to the guy in the shed, which was firmly locked by then - managed to rouse him and got the nice little tree including one or two decorations. Of course, it's one for planting....neither do I have a garden, nor even a spade to plant it illicitly in some forest....

In earlier years we had played in a mass in St Theresa's, but this time there weren't enough people to play....shame. So we went anyway. First time I had been in a mass in a Lithuanian catholic church. It's interesting.

No-one sings except the choir; there are no hymn books. The choir seemed to be doing a classical mass, but oh dear, it was not very wonderful. The choir was also very assertive, and taking no prisoners - at one stage we heard through the loudspeaker beside us a priest reading something from the bible, but the choir was having none of it and sang out even more loudly, if not clearly.

The congregation does a great deal of standing up and kneeling, as in all Catholic churches, though going straight from standing to kneeling to standing must put a bit of a strain on ancient joints. Maybe that's how some people keep fit. It was noticeable that we were not the only ones unfamiliar with the rituals - the two sides of the nave had different patterns of rising and falling.... The eucharist was interesting; the church contained at least 200 - 300 people, but the taking of the bread, with about 80% participating, was over in 5 minutes. I know because there is a helpful clock. Note I talk about the 'taking of the bread'; a priest whisked up the church with the wine, too, but I did not notice anyone getting any - unless they got it before the bread - but surely that would be against the rules?

Walked home through a totally deserted Vilnius to mulled wine and 'The Producers'. What more could you ask for on Christmas Eve?

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