Amber Roots


Amber Roots Lithuanian Heritage Club

Amber Roots Honors Millie Markauskaitė Helt for 14 Years of Service

Amber Roots Honors Millie Markauskaitė Helt for 14 Years of Service on June 20, 2015

Amber Roots Lithuanian heritage club is dedicated to the exploration of Lithuanian arts, culture, crafts, history, and current events. Members of our club engage in lively discussion while sharing their experience and knowledge of life in Lithuania.

Charles Zataveckis and Millie Markauskaitė Helt

Charles Zataveckis and Millie Markauskaitė Helt

Meetings are focused on interesting themes with our participants sharing show-and-tell items relevant to the month’s discussion topic. Whether you grew up in Lithuania or simply dream of visiting one day, Amber Roots meetings are sure to engage your mind and spirit.

Our meetings often include a beginner level Lithuanian language lesson. We encourage participants unfamiliar with the Lithuanian language to ask for the club’s help in translating letters and vintage family documents.

Every now and then, a local Lithuanian folk music group joins us for a sing-a-long.

Amber Roots Members Discuss Culture, Heritage, Politics, and More

Amber Roots Members Discuss
Culture, Heritage, Politics, and More

Potluck refreshments (a wide range of snacks and desserts) are often served.

There are no membership dues for Amber Roots, so participants usually place donations in a basket.

Meetings are conducted by Co-Directors, Joyce and Kestutis Lukas and are held at the Lithuanian Music Hall: 2715 East Allegheny Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19134. We enter through the Lithuanian Music Hall’s side entrance along Tilton Street.

We welcome everyone with an interest in Lithuania and its culture to join us!

For more information regarding Amber Roots, please contact Millie Markauskaitė Helt, Communications Coordinator or visit our event calendar to find our next Amber Roots meeting.

Christmas (Kalėdos)


Permission to reprint this article generously provided by Bridges: The Lithuanian-American News Journal.

Noyalas, Christiana (2012, December). ‘Twas the night before Kalėdos: The Kūčios table. Bridges: The Lithuanian-American News Journal, 36 (10), 12-13.

‘Twas the Night Before Kalėdos: The Kūčios Table

By Christiana Noyalas

Table Set for Kūčios

Christmas celebrations in Lithuania are rich in ceremony and tradition. Christmas Eve, or Kūčios, is the more symbolic and reflective of the two days. In preparing for the holiday, the house is thoroughly cleaned; unresolved conflicts among friends and family are reconciled; ancestors and recently departed souls are remembered; the dinner table is laid with hay and linen to symbolize the birth of Christ in the manger; and 12 dishes are prepared to represent the 12 apostles.

The physical and spiritual housekeeping is in preparation for Jesus’s birth and the holiness he represents. Lithuanians are superstitious and carrying baggage into Christmas is thought to be unlucky. Similarly, the house is cleaned to make the home more inviting for visiting family and the souls of the dearly departed who visit while everyone is away at midnight Mass.

When the table is set, an extra place setting is added to represent a relative unable to attend Christmas Eve dinner due to distance or other circumstances or to represent a relative who passed away during the year. Table decorations include candles and sprigs from evergreen trees. Not only does the dinner table hay symbolize hay in the manger where Jesus was born, but it also serves as a resting place for departed souls.

Kūčios Table by Amber Reunion

Photo by: Irene of Amber Reunion

Kūčios dinners are traditionally meatless, eggless, dairy-free and are always prepared with local produce. As Lithuania is usually snow-covered by late December, most produce served is either dried, preserved or stored in a cold cellar. The meal always begins with sharing of the Christmas Eve wafer (known as kalėdaitis, plotkelė or paplotėlis), which is similar to communion wafer. This is followed by 12 dishes, which commonly include beet soup, herring, whiting, potatoes, sauerkraut, mushrooms, Christmas bread, poppy seed milk, oatmeal pudding, cranberry pudding, biscuits, nuts, dried fruit, and apples. No alcoholic beverages are served.

Christmas Day (Kalėdos) dinner, by contrast, is contemporary and without restrictions. Meat appears in many varieties, from roasted turkey, goose and pork to baked ham to an array of smoked and cured sausages. Horseradish, pickles and relishes complement the main courses. Assorted cookies, cakes and sweet pastries are served for dessert. Rules are relaxed today and it is common to see Lithuanian Christmas tables straying from local fare to include imported seafood and produce. Wine, spiced cordials and other alcoholic beverages are served.

Linksmų Kalėdų! (Merry Christmas!)

Christiana Noyalas (Naujalis) is a marketing professional with a passion for cooking and genealogy. A resident of southeastern Pennsylvania, Christiana serves on Philadelphia’s Lithuanian Music Hall Association board. She test drives cookware and shares recipes on her blog,

A Sample Menu for Kūčios

Beet Soup – Barščiai
Herring with Mushrooms – Silkės su Grybais
Mushroom-filled Crepes – Lietiniai Blynai su Grybais
Fish in Tomato Sauce – Žuvis su Pomidorais
Smoked Salmon – Rūkytos Lašišos
Beet and Bean Salad – Burokelių Mišrainė
Sauerkraut Salad with Peas – Rauginti Kopūstai su Žirniais
Potato and Carrot Salad – Bulvių ir Morkų Mišrainė
Cranberry Pudding – Kisielius
Christmas Eve Biscuits – Prėskučiai (or Šližikai)
Poppy Seed Milk – Aguonpienis
Christmas Compote – Kompotas

Straw Christmas Ornament from Lithuania

Straw Christmas Ornament from Lithuania

Poppy Seed Milk (Aguonpienas)

  • 1 cup poppy seeds
  • 5 to 6 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons honey or more, to taste

Place the poppy seeds in a small saucepan and cover them with one to two cups of cold water. Bring the poppy seeds to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly.

Drain the water from the poppy seeds using a fine mesh sieve. Discard the water that drains from the poppy seeds. Place the poppy seed mixture in a small food processor and process until a thick mass forms. This may take some time. After a thick mass forms, transfer the mixture to a glass pitcher.

Pour four cups of cold water over the poppy seeds and stir until well combined. Add honey and stir again. Serve chilled. The poppy seed milk may be sipped by itself or served over Christmas Eve biscuits.

Kisielius (Cranberry Pudding)

Kisielius (Cranberry Pudding) with Cream

Cranberry Pudding (Kisielius)

  • 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries (3 cups)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons potato flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Place the cranberries in a saucepan and add enough cold water to cover them (approximately three cups). Add the cinnamon and cloves and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the cranberries are split and their pulp appears. Remove from heat. Remove and discard the cinnamon and cloves.

Force the mixture through a food mill or sieve. Discard the cranberry skins. Reserve one cup of cranberry juice and chill it in the refrigerator. Return the remaining juice and pulp to the saucepan. Add the sugar to the saucepan. Stir the potato flour into the chilled cranberry juice until it is completely dissolved. Add it to the cranberry mixture and bring the pudding to a boil stirring constantly. When the pudding is translucent, remove it from the heat. Stir in the vanilla. Pour the pudding into individual serving bowls and chill until set.

Lithuanian Language Classes


Learn to Speak Lithuanian

Lithuanian Alphabet

Photo by: Szczecinolog
of Wikimedia Commons

Each year, various language clubs gather in Philadelphia and its suburbs for 10-week courses in Lithuanian language studies. Our classes are small, so students enjoy active participation and individualized teacher instruction.

Our students are an eclectic mix including men and women from business and industry, stay at home moms, high school students, and retirees. Everyone is welcome to enroll since classes range from beginner to novice levels and include conversational and written language studies. Coursework includes culture, music, games, the Lithuanian alphabet, pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and conversation.

For details regarding enrollment in future Lithuanian language classes in Philadelphia, please contact Janė Cox. We recognize that our students have varied obligations and try to accommodate them with flexible class scheduling. The cost is $120 for a 10-week course and the duration of each class is approximately two hours.

If you are searching for children’s Lithuanian language classes, contact the Vincas Kreve Lithuanian Sunday School at St. Andrew Church on 19th and Wallace Streets in Philadelphia. Children’s classes commence each year in September.

Do you have a quick question about the Lithuanian language or need help with a translation? Ask your question below (by commenting in the “leave a reply” section) and one of our teachers or students will try to help you.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Let’s get started!

  • Hi…labas
  • Goodbye…sudiev
  • See you later…iki pasimatymo
  • Please…prašau
  • Thank you…ačiū
  • How are you…kaip jums sekasi
  • Good morning…labas rytas
  • Good evening…labas vakaras
  • Good night…labanaktis
  • Have a nice day…geros dienos
  • To your health…į sveikatą
  • Lithuania…Lietuva
  • Lithuanian…Lietuviškai

Have A Lithuanian Translation Question? Ask One Of Our Teachers Here!

38th Annual Mugė Lithuanian Fair (2014)


Celebrating Lithuanian Arts and Culture

We're Serious About Culture

We’re Serious About Culture

Thank you to everyone who attended the 38th Annual Mugė Lithuanian Fair on November 1st and 2nd and thank you to our volunteers and vendors who made the event possible! It was a fabulous celebration of Lithuania’s rich cultural heritage and our local Lithuanian-American community.

Highlights of the weekend included a full schedule of performances by Lithuanian folk bands and dancers, a concert by Ramunė Stankevičiūtė, an extensive menu of Lithuania’s most delectable comfort foods and internationally award-winning beers, vendors offering the Baltic region’s finest amber jewelry, arts, and handmade crafts, cultural heritage and genealogy exhibits, and genuine family-friendly fun.

Nuostabūs Bulviniai Blynai!

World’s Best Potato Pancakes!

Always the first weekend in November, Mugė is an opportunity for full immersion in Lithuanian culture and tradition. By far, it is our largest and most widely attended fundraiser of the year.

Beyond entertainment and dining, it’s an opportunity to learn more about getting involved with the Lithuanian Music Hall Association, LMHA membership, upcoming events, and volunteer opportunities.

Guests generously contributed to our mission of supporting Lithuanian arts and culture by purchasing limited edition Mugė checklist t-shirts and raffle tickets.

Proudly Serving Our Best Desserts At The Kavinė Café

Proudly Serving Our Best Desserts
At The Kavinė Café

2014 Mugė fundraiser raffle prize winners are as follows.

  • 1st Prize: Alfred Martenkus, 32″ Samsung LED HDTV
  • 2nd Prize: V.A. Sparkevicius, four Philadelphia 76ers Club Box tickets
  • 3rd Prize: John Siemienski, autographed Philadelphia Eagles Helmet
  • 4th Prize: Perhost, two Birchtree Catering Supper Club tickets
  • 5th Prize: C. Albertini, annual subscription to Bridges: Lithuanian-American News Journal and a bottle of Brothers Vilgalys krupnikas
  • 6th Prize: Dan Platt, baseball autographed by Marlon Byrd of the Philadelphia Phillies
  • 7th Prize: Joana Gaizelyte-Lacy, $50 Giant gift certificate

Fun At The Festival!

Fun At The Festival!

We extend heartfelt gratitude to our friends at the Sixers, Eagles, Phillies, Bridges: Lithuanian-American News Journal, Birchtree Catering, and Amber Roots for their generous and exciting raffle prize donations!

We look forward to seeing you at 2015’s 39th Annual Mugė Lithuanian Festival. Please save the dates of November 7 — 8, 2015 and join us for next year’s Mugė weekend fundraiser!

To see images from 2014’s festival, visit our photo gallery.