Religion and Christmas in the BalticsPeople of the Baltic nations do not all affiliate with the same Christian denomination or even religion in general. There is a high percentage of non-religious individuals in Estonia, Lithuanians predominately adhere to the tenets of Roman Catholicism, and the largest percentage of Latvia's population identifies with Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, or Orthodoxy. However, it should be noted that people of all religions can be found in each country, and this may mean that some families or communities celebrate Christmas according to the Catholic or Protestant tradition (on December 25), or according to the Orthodox tradition (on January 7), or not at all.
Additionally, Christmas may be celebrated with various degrees of religious observance, and more or less focus may be placed on attending church or recognizing the holiday's religious significance.
Christmas and the Baltic Nations' IndependenceSince Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia gained their independence from the Soviet Union in the latter part of the 20th century, Christmas has been celebrated there with ever more popularity and exuberance. This is, in part, a reaction to the years during which Christmas and religion was widely discouraged, sometimes by force, and as a way for these countries to assert their identities and create recognition of their traditional heritage. Public displays, like Christmas markets, have become possible and increase in popularity every year. Old traditions that were practiced only behind closed doors or not at all are now able to be shared openly with family and community members, Christmas masses are a part of many family's annual celebrations, and each nation offers its own take on the international Christmas culture.
Christmas Decorations from the Baltic NationsNo one can escape the temptation posed by commercial Christmas decorations that fill shops in the weeks preceding Christmas, and even people in the Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia use them. However, traditional decorations are still used and can be purchased at markets and online. The traditional straw ornament, made in the shape of stars or other traditional flat or three-dimensional designs make popular souvenirs for visitors and will last a long time if properly cared for.
Christmas trees and fir boughs are also a part of decorations used in the Baltic nations, and large, brightly-lit Christmas trees decorate town squares during the holiday season. Originally, Christmas trees were decorated with apples, candy, and sweets, but electric lights, blown glass ornaments, the traditional straw ornaments, and many other types of decorations are used today.