EXPOSITION UŽGAVĖNĖS

On the 2nd half of the 19th century (historic period) in Lithuania, the first Museum Exposition of Užgavėnės was located in the “brick-style” stable, in which famous traditional Užgavėnės celebration in Samogitia, and many different Užgavėnės masks, called in Samogitian as “lėčynos” (eng. scarecrows), are presented. Masks have been collected for over 20 years only from Samogitian regions and now there are over 300 units of them. Each year the exposition is supplemented with new copies. All masks are very different, traditional and decorative.

Plateliai have long been famous not only for the celebration of Užgavėnės, but also for masters of masks from the wood. Therefore, most of the masks are also wooden. All of them are scary: with big noses, staring eyes, toothless, faces full of warts. But they are “refined”, spruced with tall crowns strapped with colored paper. With such crowns, the “Jews” of Užgavėnės looked taller. When there were deep winters in the past, people realized that the “Jews” are coming only from the colorful crowns of them that sprung above the snow-banks.

Užgavėnės is the threshold between the leaving winter and the upcoming spring. On Tuesday, the forty-sixth day before the Easter the end for winter is announced – Užgavėnės are celebrated all over Lithuania. Užgavėnės of Samogitia are unimaginable without people in masks and bustle raised by them. Companies of people in masks in Plateliai neighborhood are called “Jews of Užgavėnės” and they have been popular since ancient times. At the time of the postwar, tradition of Užgavėnės was flagged and it has been revived only in the second half of the 7th decade. Then the Plateliai inhabitants celebrated not Užgavėnės feast, but the seeing off of winter. The celebration also took place in the center of the town, and at Plateliai Lake. Horse race was taking place if the lake was frozen. People were dressed as “Jews”, devils, doctors, Reapers, gypsies. There were a couple of young people who were playing their “marriage” (samog. “veselė”). The feast should always be with “Porky” (lith. Lašininis) and “Hempen man” (lith. Kanapinis), who fought each other during the whole feast. This fight symbolizes the struggle between winter and spring demons. Whatever the thick and powerful “Porky” looks, he always is defeated by feeble, tormented by winter time and yearning for springtime “Hempen man”.

The most important character of the festival is Morė. Užgavėnės just can’t happen without it. Morė is not just ordinary character of Užgavėnės, she is the goddess of the feast. Morė must be beautifully grown, large and not fully dressed in order to be sexy. She is a symbol of fertility and birth. Traditionally in Plateliai Morė is mounted on a wheel and a sledge shoe. Wheel is a symbol of spring, and sledge shoe is winter symbol. Morė holds a flail in her hands. Horse is dragging the Morė. When she is being dragged, Morė is spinning in circle together with a flail. This is how the earth is being woken up for spring.

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