Published: March 21st 2008March 21st 2008
In my family tradition, it is Thanksgiving that generally attracts the most number of family members to come together and celebrate. For as long as I can remember the whole family would meet at the mountain house in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and spend several days and nights together eating, hiking, and sitting by the fire. Some years as many as 25 people would cram into one house to stay the night and celebrate Thanksgiving.
In Viktorija's family tradition, it is her grandfather's birthday that draws the big crowd. My second weekend in Kaunas we travelled to Prienei, a small town 40 km outside of Kaunas, to congregate at the grandparents' place to celebrate grandpa's 74th birthday.
We arrived and the older generation was already seated at the table--Grandpa's brother (who looks just like grandpa but is about a foot shorter and with a much smaller frame), his wife, grandma's two sisters. All in all there were around 20 people around a large table in the modest-sized family room at grandma and grandpa's.
The evening was filled with toasts, cepeliniai (that ever-present traditional Lithuanian dish), and lots of other dinner dishes and desserts. People were telling
stories and making jokes (most of which I did not understand but laughed heartily at :) ). And we sang lots of songs. The elder generation sang many traditional songs, some of which the younger generation could sing along to but many which, after the first verse, were left to the elders to sing.
The younger generation shared some of their Lithuanian 'favorites,' some with lyrics that seemed (or so it appeared) quite crude to the elder ones. I sang two songs, the first being 'This Side' by Nickel Creek and the second a song by SEAL, 'Kiss From A Rose.' I felt like I was back in my own family, where growing up I was always being asked/convinced to stand up and sing at family functions.
Brian, who is Jolanta's boyfriend and also American, sang several songs as well.
And then we closed with the grand finale of 'Father Abraham.' This is a Family tradition--that each year at Grandpa's birthday they sing 'Father Abraham.' Now for those of you who know the english version of this song--- "Father Abraham had many sons and many sons had father Abraham, I am one of them and so are
you, so let's all sing this song (or 'praise the lord')"--this was not quite the same song, but certainly very similar. It included the hand and feet motions and by the end of the song everyone was shaking and wiggling their whole body. But the words of the song were very different. It was lots of fun, and the smile on Teviukas' face as we all did this song and dance was priceless.
This was Julia's first Teviukas birthday, and towards the end of the evening a photo was taken with the four generations of ladies (Julia, Jolanta (her mother), Zena (Jolanta's Mother), and Grandma).
There are more photos below