Known for its folklore, customs and unique dialect, Kupiškis region has long been a subject of interest for scholars and cultural researchers. Special attention had been paid to the wedding customs of Kupiškis which shaped the attitude of the community and individuals towards marriage and family relations. The archaic nature of the weddings is evidenced in their rituals: blessing by the father, bride’s trip to her husband’s homeland at night covered in a white linen shawl as a protection from dangerous powers, giving respect to the new family and the deities of the house, laying the newlyweds to bed, waking them up and putting the veil on bride’s head. Moreover, a great amount of ritual songs, sutartinės, lamentations, orations, musical and dance pieces remain.
Based on the wedding tradition, ethnographic plays in Kupiškis dialect have been performed for more than 80 years. On the initiative of Ona Simonavičiūtė-Glemžienė and her daughter Stefanija Glemžaitė in 1933 the first play ‘The Ancient Wedding of Kupiškis Residents’ was performed in Pyragiai village. The performance had stimulated a detailed research of the wedding customs. The tradition, abandoned in 1941, was brought to life in 1966 on the initiative of teachers Ona Čepėnaitė-Paulauskienė and Petronelė Mažeikaitė-Zulonienė. For more than 30 years Kupiškis Ethnographic Folk Theatre troupe had performed plays ‘The Old Wedding of Kupiškis Residents’ directed by Povilas Zulonas. The characters were portrayed by artistic people, who transferred their own memories and experiences to the stage. A well-known film (1970) and several vinyls are dedicated to the play.
The bearers of the tradition now are Folklore Club ‘Kupkėmis’, which in 1999 performed a new ethnographic play ‘Wedding in the Land on the Other Side’ written by Vanda Rastenytė-Balsienė and Alma Totorytė-Pustovaitienė. It depicts the wedding customs of the new husband’s home, where one of the most significant changes of life happens. This play shows more aspects of the Baltic worldview, elements of bought wedding and sutartinės.
By continuing the tradition of the ethnographic wedding play, ‘Kupkėmis’ updated the play and continues to perform it both in Lithuania and abroad. The bearers deliberately seek to bring back the traditions to modern weddings, teach how to meaningfully celebrate them, involve the youth into the old rituals, introduce couples to the wedding customs and assist in performing it.
Characters of Kupiškėnai wedding
Photograph of Kupiškis Ethnographic Museum Archive, 1934
Submitted by Folklore Club ‘Kupkėmis’, 2017