An unexpected fusion of numerous colourful traditions, values and influences - this is what characterizes Lithuanian culture. Cultural events all year round include an excellent choice of annual international festivals of classical music, theatre, cinema and poetry, featuring many prominent Lithuanian and guest performers.
Winter 2010/11 events schedule in:
Lithuanians have managed to retain authentic customs and traditions which often have clear connections with paganism. Many pagan customs are fused with Christian principles and revolve around the cycle of farm work holidays related to the seasons.
Lithuanian Christmas traditions.
Christmas Eve (24th December)
Preparations for Christmas start early in the morning on Christmas Eve: house cleaned, food prepared for several days. Family members who are away make every effort to come back home. The meal served on Christmas Eve does not include meat, milk products or eggs. It consists of twelve dishes, one for each Jesus Apostle. Everyone is expected to eat some of each dish served. An extra plate is set for any family member that is not present or had died in the past year. It is believed that that spirit of the departed join the family at the table on this sacred evening. Dinner starts then the sun goes down, everyone is assembled by the table, the head of the family says a prayer of thanksgiving, shares a Christmas wafer with everyone present and wishes them a Merry Christmas.
Christmas Eve miracles and prognostications
After the Christmas Eve dinner, Lithuanians turn to old legends and prognostications about the upcoming year. Children are told that at one mystic moment that evening the water in the well would turn to wine and that the animals in the stable would speak like humans. Straws of various lengths are placed under the tablecloth and drawn to predict the length of one's simple life in the case of the young family members. A clear and starry sky on Christmas Eve is thought to portend a good year.
Christmas Eve night
As midnight approaches, the uneaten food on the dinner table is left overnight. It is believed that souls of departed family members, relative and ancestors would visit the house during the night and the table set with food would make them welcome.
First day of Christmas (25th December)
The first day of Christmas is considered most scared and, therefore, all unnecessary work is avoided. Only food prepared days in advance is eaten. Much of the morning is spent at home singing Christmas hymns and carols. As the day progressed neighbors start to visit each other and exchange Christmas greetings.
Three Kings Festival (6th January)
Is an impressive mystery performance which symbolises the end of Christmas holiday.
The Three Kings (the three wise men of the Gospels) pass through the towns and wish residents good health, peace and wellbeing. In Vilnius annually, a theatricalised procession of Three Wise Men winding its way from the Gates of Dawn to Cathedral Square is organised. The theatricalised procession is impressive and interesting. The event attracts to the Old Town not only residents of Vilnius but also guests of the city.
Shrovetide (Pancake day)
Nowadays, Shrovetide (Užgavėnės) is a fun-filled holiday, which does not have an established date and is celebrated between the 5th of February and the 6th of March, depending on what day Easter falls.
The true Shrovetide is always held on Tuesday. No matter how early Shrovetide is celebrated, it is considered to be the beginning of spring. Some Shrovetide customs - making pancakes and dressing up in special costumes - are still observed and very often this holiday turns into a colourful celebration in many parts of the country. Moreover, pancakes top the menus of most bars, cafes and restaurants on that day. When cooking at home, it is important to have enough pancakes for family members, guests and masqueraders if they happen to drop in.
The street carnival takes place in the old town and is one of the merriest festivals. The cheerful festivities of the outdoor fete begins in the afternoon and by the evening Carnivalists spree (masquarade) and join in a procession that leads to the highlight of festivities-to send off the ghost "Morė" with a ceremonial burning.
Kaziukas Fair (beginning of March - Vilnius)
Kaziukas fair, a ritual that marks the coming of spring. Dedicated to St. Kazimieras, the patron of Lithuania, the festival originated in the 17th century, and by the 19th century had developed into the fair that's now known internationally. It is one of the most remarkable calendar festivals with deep-rooted traditions, each time presenting ingenious hand-work, and having no rivals in the surrounding areas. No doubt, this day is a real triumph of traditional crafts and arts. Lithuanian craftsmen gather for the Kaziukas fair from the whole country to sell their craftworks prepared during the long and cold winter. A rich diversity of articles by weavers, wood carvers, potters, smiths and other craft artists are presented at the fair. Simplistic and unpretentious at first sight, these artefacts are real masterpieces, displaying a subtle beauty and having a deep symbolic meaning. Made by applying ancient technologies, half-forgotten, but nevertheless alive, Lithuanian traditional crafts reveal the distinctive character, uniqueness and originality of the Lithuanian nation. Hand-made articles can add a particular style to any house, which makes them especially popular with foreign tourists.
The fair does not only abound in the items for sale, but also in events. Music, children‘s concerts and competitions takes place throughout the entire festival.