Lullabies and the related customs and rituals have helped people to raise children for ages. The transition from the conscious state to sleeping used to be considered a dangerous state of transformation, especially of a child up to one year of age, and was associated with various beliefs (e. g. rocking a cat in the cradle before putting a baby into it) and restrictions (e.g. a bad sign was to swing an empty cradle), yet rocking a baby in a cradle was one of means of protecting it. While putting a child to sleep, mothers would sing lullabies, and their melodic themes or refrains (e. g. lylia lylia, liuli liuli, a-a a-a) imitating the movement of swinging as well had magic purpose – to bring to sleep and foster growing.
Lullabies were created and sung by mothers, nannies and odder members of family. The tradition, preserving parts of its regional peculiarities, to this day plays a significant role in Lithuania and is passed on by the family women.
The old lullabies are usually short, monophonic, the melodies are simple. The key element is improvisation – mothers deviate melodies, include their own words addressing to their children, singing about them and wishing the most beautiful things. The lyrics are easy so that the child would understand them, yet still very expressive; the acting characters are cute and cosy, but at the same time carrying a mythological charge, for example, a mouse, a bunny, a cat or a bugaboo.
Psychologists noticed that lullabies help to maintain a balanced relationship between a mother and a child, stimulate baby’s mental stability and strengthen the sense of security. Moreover, it creates an archetypical field providing with an important foundation of its native culture that impacts further in life. The educational purpose of lullabies is also appreciated as they help to develop hearing, sense of rhythm, speech, imagination and world cognition.
Nowadays lullabies find place both in modern young families and in other fields of life: nannies, kindergarten teachers and preschool children learn sleep songs, alternative groups to assist and educate on raising the children emerge, such as schools for mothers, communities consisting of families, where mothers and father are taught traditional lullabies and games, also, books, recordings and movies are published.
Lulling a baby to sleep
Photograph of Lithuanian National Culture Centre Archive, 2013
Submitted by Lithuanian National Culture Centre, 2017