Celebrate Pancake Day (Užgavėnės) in Lithuania in 2024

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Traditional Mardi Gras mask during Pancake Day carnival in Plateliai, Lithuania.

Pancake Day – Mardi Gras – Užgavėnės

Pancake Day (Užgavėnės in Lithuanian), also known as Mardi Gras (French for “Fat Tuesday”) is a traditional Shrovetide Carnival, celebrated on Shrove Tuesday, which, in 2024, falls on the 13th of February.

Join us and experience the magic of Pancake Day in Lithuania – an enchanting blend of tradition, mischievousness and exuberance.

Where to Celebrate Pancake Day (Užgavėnės) in Lithuania in 2024

Pancake Day participant with a handmade traditional Mardi Gras costume and mask in Open-Air Museum of Lithuania in Rumšiškės, Lithuania.

Pancake Day (Užgavėnės) in Rumšiškės

DATE: 10th February 2024

TIME: 11am to 5:30pm

DURATION: 12 to 16 hours (including round-trip transportation from Vilnius)

LOCATION: Rumšiškės, Lithuania

You’re invited to let your hair down and go wild in the Open-Air Museum of Lithuania! A traditional celebration of Pancake Day (Užgavėnės), better known as Mardi Gras awaits.

Use traditional masks and costumes to hide your daily oh-so-serious self and let yourself loose in a cheerful camaraderie of fellow masked participants.

On the 10th of February everyone – both young and old, local and foreign will embark on a mischievous march towards Rumšiškės, where pancakes, bonfires and traditional songs, dances and rituals await! All you need is a mask (which you can create in our Traditional mask-making workshop) and at least a slightly mischievous mood – we’ll cover everything else!

INCLUDED: 

  • Expert local guide
  • Guided tour of the Open-Air Museum of Lithuania
  • Traditional pancakes and sweets tasting session
  • Hot drinks to keep you warm
  • Participation in traditional activities, including songs, dances, and bonfire rites
  • Instagram-worthy photoshoots with traditional masks

AVAILABLE ON REQUEST: 

  • Transport available upon request (€19 per person)
  • Traditional mask-making workshop
  • Professional photoshoot with traditional masks
  • Traditional meal experiences
  • Mardi Gras costume rentals
  • Personalized private tours

PRICE: Starting from €50 (includes museum entrance ticket)

TRANSPORT: Group transfer available upon request (from €15 per person)

DISCOUNTS: Enjoy a 20% discount for groups larger than 4 persons. Participants of Rumšiškės/Plateliai/Telšiai celebration with Baltic Gently get a 20% discount to the mask workshop. Discounts cannot be combined.

Pancake Day (Užgavėnės) in Plateliai

DATE: 13th February 2024

DURATION: up to 11 hours

TIME: 8am to 9pm

LOCATION: Plateliai, Lithuania

ABOUT THE CELEBRATION:

Embark on a journey to Plateliai, the heart of Mardi Gras festivities in the Samogitia region and beyond. Here, amidst the beautiful tranquility of the countryside, locals and visitors, kids and adults alike come together every year to revel in the celebration of Pancake Day.

Organized by the loyal local community every year, Mardi Gras transforms Plateliai into a kaleidoscope of colors and sounds. Participants, donning traditional masks and costumes all line up and march throughout the town. All of this peaks on Tuesday noon, when everyone, gathered in front of the Plateliai community hall, engages in dances, music performances, pancake tasting and, last, but not least – the Morė effigy burning ceremony to shoo the Winter away for good!

INCLUDED: 

  • Expert local guide
  • Traditional pancakes and sweets tasting session
  • Hot drinks to keep you warm
  • Participation in traditional activities, including songs, dances, and bonfire rites
  • Instagram-worthy photoshoots with traditional masks

AVAILABLE ON REQUEST: 

  • Transport available upon request
  • Traditional mask-making workshop
  • Professional photoshoot with traditional masks
  • Traditional meal experiences
  • Accommodation options for extended stays
  • Mardi Gras costume rentals
  • Personalized private tours

PRICE: Starting from €80

DISCOUNTS: Enjoy a 20% discount for groups larger than 4 persons. Participants of Rumšiškės/Plateliai/Telšiai celebration with Baltic Gently get a 20% discount to the mask workshop. Discounts cannot be combined.

Pancake Day carnival participants, wearing traditional Mardi Gras costumes and masks during celebration in Plateliai, Lithuania.
A person wearing traditional handmade Mardi Gras mask pets a horse during Pancake Day celebration in Plateliai,

Pancake Day (Užgavėnės) wherever and whenever you want

DATE: Any

TIME: Any

DURATION: Any

LOCATION: Any

ABOUT THE CELEBRATION:

How would you like to experience Pancake Day as if you were a small countryside village local who secretly dresses up in a traditional Mardi Gras costume and together with a group of friends marches around the village visiting neighbors?

And in the afternoon join the whole village in a brassy carnival procession? Stay until the early hours, embracing the warmth of hand-built bonfires, tasting traditional pancakes and engage in light-hearted mischief? Dance and sign with the locals, as a local?

This could be a very unique experience for you and your family. All you need to do is say the word and our team will take care of the rest.

AVAILABLE ON REQUEST: 

  • Expert local guide
  • Traditional pancakes and sweets tasting session
  • Hot drinks to keep you warm
  • Participation in traditional activities, including songs, dances, and bonfire rites
  • Instagram-worthy photoshoots with traditional masks
  • Transport available upon request
  • Traditional mask-making workshop
  • Professional photoshoot with traditional masks
  • Traditional meal experiences
  • Accommodation options for extended stays
  • Mardi Gras costume rentals
  • Personalized private tours
  • ..and anything else to make your experience truly memorable!

PRICE: From €100

DISCOUNTS: Enjoy a 20% discount for groups larger than 4 persons. Participants of Rumšiškės/Plateliai/Telšiai celebration with Baltic Gently get a 20% discount to the mask workshop. Discounts cannot be combined.

Other Pancake Day (Užgavėnės) Experiences for 2024

A person wearing traditional handmade Mardi Gras mask during Pancake Day carnival in Plateliai, Lithuania.

Traditional Mardi Gras Mask Workshop in Vilnius Old Town

DATES: 30th January / 1st February / 6th February / 8th February 2024

TIME: 5:30pm to 8:30pm

DURATION: 3 hours

LOCATION: Mykolo Street, Vilnius Old Town

ABOUT THE WORKSHOP:

Baltic Gently invites you to create your very own traditional Mardi Gras (Užgavėnės) mask for the mischievous winter carnival! The workshop is held in Vilnius Old Town and offers a rare opportunity to learn how traditional Mardi Gras masks are made using ecological materials such as plasticine, papier mache, straws, linen and wool threads and then decorated using water colors.

Our workshop leaders will provide each participant with a plasticine mask molding form made by local traditional artisans. Together with the group, each participant will shape their mask using ripped paper pieces and paper mache, while our local guide Egle Gal will share her knowledge of the authentic Lithuanian Mardi Gras carnival traditions.

The workshop has four separate stages:

  • Mask molding
  • Mask decoration
  • Mask coloring
  • Costume assembly

All participants can choose which stages to join.

For those, less inclined to do everything from scratch themselves, we offer pre-made masks that will require some trimming and coloring for personalisation.

PRICE: From €25

DISCOUNTS: Enjoy a 20% discount for groups larger than 4 persons. Participants of Rumšiškės/Plateliai celebration with Baltic Gently get a 20% discount to the mask workshop. Discounts cannot be combined.

How Lithuanians Celebrated Pancake Day (Užgavėnės) in the past

Pancake Day (Užgavėnės) celebration in Lithuania in 2020
Pancake Day (Užgavėnės) celebration in Lithuania in 2021

Mardi Gras (Užgavėnės) Traditions

In the folklore, the day of Mardi Gras (Lithuanian: Užgavėnės) is seen as a “threshold between passing winter and coming spring”, during which all the mischievousness and outright silly behavior of the carnival participants, in fact, has a much deeper meaning.

Traditional Mardi Gras masks and costumes in a photo from 1936 Pancake Day celebration in Salantai, Lithuania.

Originating from ancient agricultural traditions, it’s a joyous event meant to usher in fertility for the summer crops and strengthen the communal bonds. Local communities gather together to scare the Winter (perceived as a negative force) away and usher in the beginning of Spring.

Yet, beyond its agrarian roots, this day is steeped with mischievousness, naughty songs and playful games aimed at increasing birth rate within the communities.

In the Christian tradition, Mardi Gras is known as Shrove Tuesday that marks the start of the 46 day period of contemplation and fasting before Easter. However, throughout the centuries, its pagan equivalent – the Pancake Day has been a rare moment, when strict norms of day-to-day lives can be cast aside and individuals, with the help of traditional masks, transform into whimsical characters, allowing them to revel in spontaneity and mischief.

While Pancake Day is still widely celebrated in Europe and beyond, only a few countries maintained the archaic traditions, rituals and authentic mask-making processes.

Pancake Day carnival procession with people wearing traditional Mardi Gras costumes and masks in Plateliai, Lithuania.

Some of the best-known Lithuanian Mardi Gras traditions are:

  • Eating heavy greasy foods 7 to 12 times a day. The most popular dish is pancakes.
  • Crafting masks and donning a costume to shapeshift into witches, bears, goats, storks, death.
  • Going door to door while in a costume and in exchange for home-made foods, sweet treats or money, amusing people with songs, tricks and general silliness.
  • Rooting for Hempen Man (Lithuanian: Kanapinis), personifying Spring to defeat Porky (Lašininis in Lithuanian) representing Winter in a playful enactment of a duel.
  • Surviving the cold long enough to witness the peak of Mardi Gras: the burning of Morė (an effigy symbolizing Winter).

Some chants that you are bound to hear that day:

  • “Žiema, žiema, bėk iš kiemo” (Winter, winter, get out of our yard)
  • “Šalta žiema šalin eina, jau pavasaris ateina” (The cold winter goes away, the spring is nearing)
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Photos from Mardi Gras (Užgavėnės) Celebrations in Lithuania

Musicians with wooden Mardi Gras masks and costumes during Pancake Day celebration in front of a traditional wooden house in Rumšiškės, Lithuania.
Pancake Day celebration participants wearing Mardi Gras costumes and masks in Open-Air Museum of Lithuania in Rumšiškės.
Pancake Day photoshoot of locals wearing traditional Mardi Gras masks and costumes in Plateliai, Lithuania.

Mardi Gras (Užgavėnės) Masks

Traditional Mardi Gras masks aren’t just about fun. Although they allowed wearers to at least temporarily escape the strict society and class constraints of the time, their role was much more serious. Once a year, during Mardi Gras celebration (also known as Pancake Day or Užgavėnės in Lithuanian), mask wearers would shed their human nature, shapeshifting into the creature represented by the mask.

Traditional Mardi Gras masks made from leather and paper as seen during Pancake Day carnival in Lithuania.

In many cultures, masks are closely associated with the deceased. The carnival procession of masked Mardi Gras participants throughout the village symbolized the visit from the departed ancestors. As such, traditional face masks were held in high regard and carved only from certain types of wood, such as birch, alder or aspen. Occasionally, some masks were also made from leather and cloth or even knitted.

The rest of the costume was traditionally completed simply by inverting every-day fur coats and using curved sticks to imitate physical deformities.

Pancake Day masks tended to represent animals, supernatural beings and various ethnic groups. Most typical choices were:

  • Cranes
  • Goats
  • Horses
  • Death
  • Witches
  • Various ethnic minority groups (Gypsies, Jews and Germans to name but a few)

In the modern day, impersonating minorities is frowned upon and, for everyone’s convenience, masks are frequently made from paper but nevertheless: some people still go above and beyond to find inventive ways to dress up for Mardi Gras carnival.

Get Your Mardi Gras Masks Ready – Register for Mask Workshop

Traditional Mardi Gras (Užgavėnės) Foods

It’s believed that people must eat anywhere from seven to twelve times a day during Mardi Gras. No one was brave enough to turn a visitor or beggar away from the table. Instead, even if the guests were already full, the hosts would continue encouraging them to have just one more bite of traditionally meaty meals.

Table with traditional Mardi Gras foods and drinks, with people gathered around a pig head stew during Pancake Day in Rumšiškės, Lithuania.

Mardi Gras meals, unlike those of Christmas, can’t be left on the table overnight. Every hostess responsible for the food preparation, had to calculate the amount of food precisely, so everyone would be able to have a dozen meals that day and yet no leftovers would remain.

Some of the most well-known traditional Mardi Gras foods are:

  • Pancakes (Lithuanian: blynai). To this day their recipe remains the same as in the days of the past. Most common were the flour pancakes, with eggs occasionally mixed into the dough. Potato pancakes were seen less often, until pancakes themselves were gradually replaced with chutney.
  • Stew (Lithuanian: šiupinys). Boiled pea soup with pig’s head and feet is the most ancient traditional Mardi Gras dish. Today it is made from a variety of grains, oftenly pearl, barley, beans, peas, carrots, onions, sliced or mashed potatoes, bacon and pork (ears, legs and/or head). In short – whatever you find in your cupboards, goes into the stew. This meal was particularly popular in Samogitia (Lithuanian: Žemaitija), with people stuffing themselves full during Mardi Gras in preparation for the fast that began the following day.
  • Potato and pea mash (known in Lithuanian as “kiunkė”) – was sometimes used as a simpler and more economical version of the stew.
  • Doughnuts. No introduction or explanation necessary, even Lithuanians of the old days loved to get their fingers greasy in pursuit of this gastronomical delight.
  • Meat jelly (“Šaltiena” in Lithuanian). Traditional Mardi Gras meal, consisting of meat that was left over from the Christmas slaughter.
  • Variety of other fat meat, lard and potato meals – don’t miss the opportunity to taste them all!

Traditional Mardi Gras (Užgavėnės) Drinks

To be able to consume such copious amounts of fatty foods, it was customary to help wash them down with drinks. The choice here is less plentiful compared to the meal menu but don’t frown until you try – these traditional Mardi Gras drinks are bound to leave you satisfied (and slightly tipsy).

Local Mardi Gras shop in Open-Air Museum of Lithuania in Rumšiškės, featuring rye bread kvass and traditional Pancake Day sweets.

The most popular drinks were home-brewed beer, rye bread kvass or vodka. It was considered ill-advised to drink water, as a widespread superstition cautioned that those who drink water on the day of Mardi Gras, will remain thirsty for the full year.

  • Barley beer – the most traditional of all Mardi Gras drinks. Prepared well in advance, with fermentation occurring right after the Christmas, this beer was also believed to stimulate fertility and promoted in respective rituals.
  • Rye bread kvass (Lithuanian: gira). Traditionally drunk by children and women and those who wanted to remain level headed during Mardi Gras.
  • Homemade vodka (known as “samanė” or “naminukė” in Lithuanian). Much much stronger than the vodka we know today, it was drunk only by men.
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    Egle Gal

    Founder & Tour Director

    Travel manager and founder of Baltic Gently, Egle Gal in Nida, Lithuania.

    "Planning journeys can be scary - you simply never know where or how to start. That's why we offer free initial consultations - to help you get started on what is guaranteed to become an unforgettable experience!"