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Christmas in Vilnius

The Holidays in the Lithuanian Capital City


Vilnius Christmas Train

Vilnius Christmas Train

Kerry Kubilius, licensed to About.com
Christmas in Vilnius doesn’t follow a year-after-year repeated plan of events, but visitors can look forward to markets, decorations, concerts, and other related events. In addition, families in Vilnius celebrate Lithuanian Christmas traditions.

Vilnius Christmas Market

The Vilnius Christmas market is a tradition that has gotten off to a rocky start. Established in 2009, the market opened with a celebration early in the month of December. However, in later years, it has been unable to maintain such momentum and runs on a reduced schedule. An additional Christmas market at the Panorama shopping center has also proved popular, though its size and dates of operation also vary from year to year.

During the first weekend of December, the International Women’s Association in Vilnius organizes a Christmas charity fair with gifts and foods from different nationalities that live in Vilnius. In the past, this charity bazaar has been held in the Town Hall in Old Town Vilnius.

Christmas Decorations

Christmas decorations are typically tasteful in Old Town Vilnius, with a tree on Cathedral Square erected at the start of December and lights lining Gediminas Prospect. Shops and restaurants also don Christmas lights.

Nativity Scenes in Vilnius

One tradition visitors can look forward to is the two nativity scenes that appear every Christmas. The first is on Cathedral Square, where a life-sized manger is placed shortly before the holidays. The other is the manger with live animals at the Bernadine Church.

Holiday Concerts

The active music culture in Vilnius takes advantage of the Christmas season with a series of holiday concerts at a variety of venues throughout the city. St. Catherine’s Church, the Philharmonic, and the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theater traditionally host special Christmas concerts and performances.

Other Christmas Events

Special events in Old Town Vilnius include Christmas train rides, a Christmas town on Town Hall Square, and visits from Santa. Christmas mass is held at various churches throughout the city.

The Christmas procession from the Gates of Dawn to Cathedral Square is a regularly anticipated event taking place on January 6th. Figures of the Three Wise Men make their way through Old Town and are followed by an ever-growing parade of onlookers.

Christmas Foods

Some restaurants provide a special menu permitting diners to observe an Advent diet, and Christmas dinners are advertised for visitors or families who cannot or prefer not to celebrate with a home-cooked meal.

Christmas Shopping

Store-wide sales or discounts are typical for shops in the days preceding Christmas. Though most people do their shopping at Vilnius’ shopping centers and malls, shopping in Old Town Vilnius is the best way to pick up handmade gifts and other Souvenirs from Lithuania. Amber is a favorite gift from Lithuania, but hand-printed cards, ornaments, and decorations appear in shops especially for the holidays.

Christmas in the Lithuanian Home

Christmas is typically a family holiday in Lithuania, and if you have the opportunity to visit a local family on Christmas Eve, be prepared for a traditional holiday spread and hospitality that will make your holiday memorable. Twelve dishes for the 12 Apostles (or the 12 months of the year) are eaten after the breaking and sharing of the Christmas wafer. Herring and vegetables are the main features of the dinner. Sometimes straw is placed under the tablecloth to represent the manger, and diners pull pieces of the straw to predict the length of their life. Other superstitions, such as the belief that animals can speak on Christmas Eve and a shoe thrown at the door will foretell marriage, are also observed.

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