Originated from France and arrived in Lithuania through other European countries around the 16th century, in the 18th century – the years of plague – the tradition of visiting crosses was a very common practice, linking the rituals of Christian penance, prayers and requests for protection with the Baltic practices of attending fields and ensuring the safety of the spring sowing.
In Griškabūdis area of Šakiai district the tradition has remained unchanged. It is an important communal procession, during which in spring – on the Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday before Ascension Day, six weeks after Easter – local people of Griškabūdis walk from cross to cross praying, chanting and asking for good crops, favourable weather conditions, protection of farm animals as well as health for families and cross-crafters. Residents of Bliuviškiai and neighbouring villages, in spite of dictatorship regimes that devastated the country, continue to perform this ritual to this day: before the procession, they clean the environs of the crosses, plant flowers and place some candles, the next day early in the morning everyone gathers near the central cross of the village, start chanting the Litany of All Saints, visit the crosses both in the living area and the fields, finally, they finish the ceremony with a gathering and a picnic. People talk about community problems and celebrate accomplished work, they discuss positive or negative changes in neighbours’ farms, tell stories and sing. It is a community celebration that helps to preserve not only the old beliefs and ceremonies, but also a mutual relationship. Cross-crafters, their patrons and farmers consider the procession a great honour and believe in the power of crosses, prayers and chants to affect people and the state of farms for the better.
Because of this living tradition, crosses and chapels are rebuilt and restored, educational workshops and trainings are held as well as favourable conditions for the further preservation of the ceremony of visiting crosses are strengthened.
Next to the cross by the road Bliuviškiai–Vidgiriai
Photograph of Bliuviškiai village community archive, 2017
Submitted by Griškabūdis Cultural Centre under Šakiai District Municipality, 2017