Christianity Today points to an article in The Forward about the pre-Lenten traditions in Lithuania. Instead of pancakes or beads and licentiousness, the tradition is ugly–people dressing up as caricatures of Jews (and as gypsies) in parades, and children going door-to-door (as they do here on Halloween).
When Simonas Gurevicius, the 26-year-old executive director of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, opened the door to his house during last year’s Uzgavenes, he was greeted by two children dressed in horns and tails, reciting a song that translates as, “We’re the little Lithuanian Jews/We want blintzes and coffee/If you don’t have blintzes/Give us some of your money.” (It rhymes in Lithuanian.)
The article ends:
Ethnologist Inga Krisciuniene, who works at the Centre of Ethnic Activity, led the event, explained how she believed that in earlier times, Jews and Gypsies dressed alike. Revelers wore the same mask on Uzgavenes to depict them, so that the characters were distinguishable only by performers’ actions. When asked whether it could be seen as offensive to mock these minorities, Krisciuniene replied, “No one has ever complained.” The intent, she said, is humorous.
“Besides,” she added, “it’s true that Gypsies steal.”