Lithuania’s annual holiday celebrations include modern secular holidays, church holidays, and pagan festivities that remember Lithuania’s pre-Christian heritage. Most holidays enjoy some type of public expression in markets, street festivals, decorations, or other traditions.
New Year’s Day—January 1
Lithuania’s celebration of New Year’s Eve matches any of those in Europe, with private parties, fireworks, and special events ringing in the New Year.
Day of Freedom Defenders—January 13
The Day of Freedom Defenders commemorates the day when Soviet troops stormed the television tower amidst Lithuania’s struggle for independence in 1991. On this day and the days leading up to January 13th, over a dozen people were killed and over a hundred people injured. In the past, the day has been marked with special events as well as free entrance to the KGB Museum.
Uzgavenes, Lithuania’s Carnival celebrations, take place in early February. Winter and spring duke it out in a comic fight and an effigy of the representation of the cold season, More, is burned. In Vilnius, an outdoor market and children’s activities accompany the celebrations and people make and eat pancakes on this day.
Independence Day—February 16
Officially called the Day of Reestablishment of the State of Lithuania and more generally known as one of Lithuania’s days of independence, this day marks the 1918 declaration signed by Jonas Basanavičius and nineteen other signatories. The act proclaimed Lithuania as an independent nation after WWI. On this day, flags decorate streets and buildings and some businesses and schools close.
Day of Restitution—March 11
The Day of Restitution commemorates the act that declared Lithuania free from the Soviet Union on March 11, 1990. Though Lithuania had made its wishes known to the USSR and the rest of the world, it was not until almost a year later when foreign nations began to officially recognize Lithuania as its own country.
St. Casimir’s Day—March 4
St. Casimir’s Day remembers the patron saint of Lithuania. Kaziukas Fair, an enormous craft fair, takes place on the weekend nearest to this day in Vilnius. Gediminas Prospect, Pilies Street, and side streets are packed with vendors from Lithuania and nearby countries as well as people who come to shop for handmade and traditional goods.
Labor Day—May 1
Lithuania celebrates Labor Day with most of the rest of the world on the first of May.
Mother’s Day—First Sunday in May; Father’s Day—First Sunday in June
In Lithuania, the family is an honored institution and highly regarded. Mothers and fathers are celebrated on their respective days.
Mourning and Hope Day—June 14
June 14, 1941, began the first of mass deportations that occurred after the Soviet Union occupied the Baltic states. This day remembers the victims of these deportations.
St. John’s Day—June 24
St. John’s Day recalls Lithuania’s pagan past. On this day, traditions and superstitions connected with midsummer are observed. Festivities include jumping over fires and floating wreaths on water.
Statehood Day—July 6
Statehood Day marks the crowning of King Mindaugas in the 13th century. Mindaugas was Lithuania’s first and only king and holds a special place in the country’s history and legends.
Assumption Day—August 15
Because Lithuania is a predominantly Roman Catholic nation, Assumption Day is an important holiday. Some businesses and schools are closed on this day.
Black Ribbon Day—August 23
Black Ribbon Day is a Europe-wide day of remembrance for victims of Stalinism and Nazism, and in Lithuania, flags with black ribbons are flown to mark this day.
All Saint’s Day—November 1
On the eve of All Saint’s Day, graves are cleaned and decorated with flowers and candles. Cemeteries become places of light and beauty on this night, connecting the world of the living with that of the dead.
Christmas Eve—December 24
Called Kūčios, Christmas Eve is a family holiday. Families often eat 12 dishes to symbolize the 12 months of the year and the 12 Apostles.
Lithuanian Christmas traditions include public Christmas trees, family gatherings, the giving of gifts, Christmas markets, visits from Santa Claus, and special meals.