Compared to the largest European capitals, Christmas markets in Vilnius’ Katedros Square and in front of the Town Hall are still very recent, but have already become a part of the festive capital culture, with their own traditions and a distinctive outlook.
“This is where time simply flies by. Everyone is in a good, festive mood,” says Kamilė, selling handmade soaps and cosmetics at the fair.
Christmas is also an important opportunity for the city to attract foreign visitors, according to a press release by the Vilnius administration. 61 percent of tourists chose Vilnius as their travel destination to celebrate Christmas and the New Year, and over 90 percent of them rated city markets and decorations as excellent or very good.
“Your Christmas tree is really charming, and the Christmas Town underneath it is very cosy and lots of fun. Very beautiful!” said two women from France.
Abundance of crafts and foods
Darius, who makes unique jewellery from sequoia, eucalyptus, bamboo, beech trees, says each piece of jewellery has a different meaning and can become a unique gift.
The pavillion selling men’s accessories offers a variety of shapes, colours and materials – bow ties, scarves, cufflinks decorated with herbs and berries, fancy ties and even 3D-printed plastic bow ties.
Meanwhile, organisations for people with disabilities sell handmade Christmas souvenirs, with all the proceeds going back to fund the various activities for its community.
Further afield, scents of spices and baked goods add to the special magic of the Christmas market.
“Children are attracted by colourful glazed gingerbread cookies, their parents and grandparents prefer gingerbread cookies with names glazed on them, while foreign guests choose gingerbread decorated with Lithuanian accents,” said the vendor at ‘Meduolių Šalis’ (Gingerbread Land).
An abundance of hot drinks, including Christmas and herb teas, fruit kissel, hot cider and wine, cocoa, hot chocolate, coffee and traditional Lithuanian acorn, dandelion or carrot coffee is also on offer.
“There are no coffee trees in Lithuania, so our ancestors used roots and seeds of plants that grow in Lithuania to make hot beverages,” says Laisvė behind one of the market stalls.