Linen Traditions in Lithuania

The traditions of flax cultivation and processing in Lithuania stretch back several thousand years. Lithuanians have given a special place in their folklore and overall perception of the world to this plant, which has accompanied them since ancient times. Flax has even been associated with a couple of old Lithuanian gods: Vaižgantas, the patron of flax cultivation, and Gabjauja, the guardian of the flax harvest.

Daily life in the ancient Lithuanian countryside and agricultural work were in a harmonious relationship. Flax cultivation, which requires five times more effort than most grains, was one of the main areas of work. Lithuanians highly valued the special material and medicinal effects of flax and included a variety of myths, games, fairy tales and songs in the cycles of flax cultivation and processing. The beginning and end of the works as well as the most important events of flax cultivation were also marked with larger celebrations. These remarkable examples of folklore have survived to this day.

Growing flax was communal process in which the work had to be shared by everyone. The men were responsible for harvesting the stalks of flax, whereas women were in charge of combing the strands. Linen was especially important in the life of girls and accompanied their preparations for marriage. In Lithuanian it is difficult to imagine any kind of important celebration without linen – let it be matchmaking, marriage, baptism or other family celebrations. Lithuanians decorated their houses with linen, and it was the most popular choice of gift for important occasions. Festive tables were covered with white linen tablecloths, while checkered or striped linen tablecloths were used on a daily basis. Flax was not only present for joyous occasions – it also played an important role during funerals.

Although Lithuanian soil is very suitable for growing flax, unfortunately very little is grown here nowadays. However, linen is still important in Lithuania and its contemporary revival can be easily observed. Various linen products – from towels and napkins to dresses and shirts – are becoming popular once again, with linen garments being prized for their naturalness and high quality.