In December, kilometres of decorative lights illuminate the main streets of Lithuania’s cities.
Some say winter holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. In Lithuania, it certainly feels like they are! As the festive season commences in late November, the country gears up for celebrations. Festive lights, open-air markets, mulled wine — there’s plenty to do and see this time of year, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas. Let’s run through the highlights!
The epicentre of the holiday spirit in Lithuania is, of course, the Christmas tree. Most Lithuanian cities and towns set one up in their main square, and the moment the lights switch on is always a highly anticipated event. Often accompanied by concerts and other celebrations, the lighting ceremony marks the start of the holiday season.
As tradition goes, each town and city engages in a bit of friendly competition for the most creative and overall best-looking Christmas tree. Preparations start early, with the latest developments covered extensively in the news media, which makes the event the talk of the town.
Kilometres of decorative lights also illuminate the main streets of Lithuania’s cities. Trees, street lamps and shop windows all get a festive makeover, so a stroll through the city centre is a perfect opportunity to soak up the winter magic.
Often the most elaborate in the country, the Vilnius Christmas tree has an interesting history. Read about it here.
During the countdown to the winter holidays, open-air markets spring up across Lithuanian squares. Families and friends flock to pop-up stands that offer various delicacies, festive drinks and handmade gifts.
Besides the Christmas Town, set up in the central square of Vilnius, featuring one of the most beautiful Christmas trees in the world, there’s no shortage of other options. For instance, you might want to visit the International Christmas Charity Bazaar and get yourself some unique goodies assembled by the city’s embassies. Or check out the Uptown Christmas fair, where you can buy handmade gifts directly from local artisans and artists.
After loading up on traditional kitchen utensils, woollen socks, and hearty winter food, don’t forget to grab a glass of mulled wine or root beer for some extra holiday cheer.
If you’re up for some wintry exercise, lace up your skates! Every year in the run-up to winter holidays, Vilnius sets up an outdoor ice skating rink in a different location. Lukiškės Square and riverside have hosted the rink in the past, but in 2022, it’s going to be set up in a more unusual site – the former Lukiškės Prison, now one of the hottest cultural spots in town. Best of all, Vilnius keeps its skating rink well past December – you can go sliding and gliding till the end of February.
If you’re looking for some festive mood outside the city centre, there are plenty of destinations that will deliver! Here are some options:
Trakai, a town 30-minute drive from Vilnius, looks straight out of fairytale in wintertime. The town’s snow-covered medieval castle, frozen lakes, twinkling lights, and picturesque streets make it a perfect place for a magical day trip.
Kirkilai Amusement Park in Northern Lithuania transforms into a festive wonderland every December. Meeting Santa Claus and his deer, riding carousels, and admiring ice sculptures are only a few of the many fun activities on offer. If you’re closer to the seaside, Dino Park near Klaipėda hosts the annual winter festival of glowing dinosaurs, featuring spectacular light installations, a mirror maze, and Santa’s post office.
The holiday season in Lithuania is marked by multiple events – here are some of our favourites:
International Christmas Charity Bazaar is a yearly charity event taking place at Vilnius Town Hall in early December. Organised by the city’s international diplomatic and business communities, the Bazaar donates all proceeds from the sales of hand-made crafts, souvenirs, and treats to Lithuanian charities.
A carillon concert on Christmas day is a holiday tradition of Klaipėda, Lithuania’s port city. Ringing from the tower of Klaipėda’s Central Post Office, the carillon bells invite everyone to celebrate Christmas with traditional hymns, carols, and arrangements of classical works.
The Christmas run is one of the oldest races in Lithuania, celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2022. It also probably is the country’s most fun running event – the participants run in Christmas-themed costumes or dressed as well-known characters.
If you wonder how life in Lithuania looks like through the cold season, read all about it here.