When speaking about the ancient Lithuanians, their mode of life, character and customs, the historians of the past described them as strong-built men of medium height, peaceable and good-natured, but notable for courage in case they had to defend themselves. The historians usually stressed the hospitality, faithfulness to the given word and the love of truth and freedom inherent in Lithuanians.
Before the introduction of Christianity the Lithuanians worshipped the forces of Nature and had many gods and goddesses, quite like ancient Greeks or Romans. The chief god was Perkunas, the Thunder god. The ancient Lithuanians worshipped their gods not in special buildings, but in sacred groves and forests where a holy fire was kept, guarded by vaidilutes (the Lithuanian equivalent of vestal virgins). The will of the gods was expounded by priests called kriviai, which were headed by the principal priest called kriviu krivaitis usually belonging to the court of the Grand Duke.
The Lithuanians were the last pagan people in Europe. Many of them still worshipped their old gods and observed their old customs as late as the 16th and even 17th centuries. Upon its advent in Lithuania Christianity eventually did away with many of the old customs and traditions while dressing some others in Christian robes. Although formally declared religious holidays, Christmas, Easter and others retained many features characteristic of the old world outlook and of the old customs, which varied from one ethnographic region to another.
Â From their forefathers who had a wage a hard struggle with the forces of Nature the Lithuanians inherited their industry. Hospitality and friendliness are regarded as natural to them since time immemorial. At the same time Lithuanians, like other northern peoples, have always been and still are reserved in manner and speech. Their mentality and world perception are tinged with gentle lyricism which finds reflection particularly in folk art. There are also regional differences in the mode of life, manner and customs. West Lithuanians. e. Zemaiciai (Samogitians), are particularly sedate, reserved and persistent. Rational thinking, thrift and orderliness are characteristic of the majority of Aukstaiciai, particularly their south-western group called Suvalkieciai. Dzukai, living in South-east Lithuania, are cheerful, open-hearted, friendly and hospitable people who have always lived in poverty on their unproductive sandy land.