On a rainy Sunday, Lithuanian witches stopped traffic in the suburbs of Reykjavík. It was Women’s Day in Iceland. While many women were dressed up and looking their best, Lithuanian witches did no such thing! They were celebrating the end of winter with a special celebration called Uzgavenes.
Uzgavenes (which translates to “the time before Lent”) is a Lithuanian festival that takes place during the seventh week before Easter on Ash Wednesday. It begins with the burning of an effigy of winter called More, and also involves a staged battle in which Kanapinis (“Hempen man”), who personifies spring, defeats Lašininis (“Porky”), who personifies winter.
This widely celebrated festival in Lithuania is growing in popularity in Iceland with a greater number of Lithuanians and Icelanders participating each year. All kinds of devils, witches and ghosts, and gypsies gathered at the Reynisvatn camp, where the Lithuanian community celebrated Uzgavenes for the fourth time in Iceland.
Participants danced, played games and ate the traditional festival dish—a pancake with a variety of toppings, symbolizing the return of the sun. Children were very excited about helping Kanapinis defeat Lasininis in their traditional fight. Ultimately Lasininis left, but with the promise that he will return next winter, and this he will most likely do.
Witches typically rely on brooms as a means of transportation, but due to bad weather conditions in Iceland, the brooms were changed out for cars. This led to some confusion with Icelandic drivers! They are not used to seeing witches and devils driving around, especially on their national Women’s Day, so they stopped, stared and took pictures. Luckily, there were no traffic accidents in the process!
See photos from the event here.