December is a magical time in every Lithuanian heart. This is the only time in a year, when basketball is not the most important thing in life. It’s Christmas time! However this year Christmas is different. The world is being shaken by global pandemic. COVID-19 cases in Lithuania are growing rapidly… There are quite a lot of restrictions & regulations to stop the spread of the disease that made 2020 an infamous year (more information about the most recent regulations in Vilnius and Lithuania).
Despite all that, there are still things to be excited about during Christmas time in Vilnius. So what are the locals most excited about this year 2020?
Over the years Vilnius has received a lot of global attention for its unique and stunning Christmas tree installations. Last year’s Queen of Chess Christmas tree was selected as the most beautiful Christmas tree in Europe. It was also mentioned in quite a few lists in other parts of the world. 2019 Vilnius Christmas tree was inspired by archaeological findings in the Palace of the Grand Dukes - the shape of the tree was borrowed from the 14-15th century chess piece. Just imagine how perfectly it would have fitted this year after success of The Queen’s Gambit miniseries by Netflix.
Vilnius Christmas Tree 2019 – the queen figure from the game of chess - the most beautiful Christmas tree in Europe
And we are getting spoiled, because each year it’s harder and harder to impress us. This year is no different. Vilnius has chosen a surreal theme for Vilnius Christmas tree 2020. Dominykas Koncevičius, who created surreal Christmas tree, said it was inspired by progress of technology, changes in the society, differences between people, movement, urbanism, etc. It took around two weeks to build the installation!
The main surreal Vilnius Christmas Tree 2020 at Vilnius Cathedral square
Inside that surreal Christmas tree you can find a classical 12 m height Christmas tree representing traditional Christmas and making you feel like at home. The whole installation connects modern world and old Christmas traditions.
A classical Christmas tree inside surreal Vilnius Christmas tree 2020
If you are not impressed yet, Vilnius Christmas tree is also sustainable! Coffee grounds are processed into electricity to light up the tree. We should thank coffee producer Pauling and renewable energy company Green Genius for making environmentally friendly electricity to create festive mood in Vilnius. 21 tons of coffee grounds will be used to light up Vilnius Christmas tree for the whole Christmas period.
We will be able to admire this surreal Vilnius Christmas tree until 7th of January, 2021. However it is also possible to enjoy the beauty of Christmas tree online in 3D virtual tour at the Cathedral square. If you are curious, you can also see Vilnius Christmas trees from the past by clicking on red & white circles scattered next to this year's Christmas tree.
If you thought that we only have one Christmas tree in Vilnius, think again! The one at the Cathedral square is always the main Christmas tree of the city. However there is a tradition to have a smaller Christmas tree at Vilnius Town Hall square – the historical heart of Vilnius
Vilnius Christmas tree at Vilnius Town Hall square 2020
NB! Do not forget to keep safety regulations while wandering around the Old Town and admiring Christmas decorations & Vilnius Christmas trees – wearing masks and keeping safe distance from others.
Most of the countries cancelled their Christmas markets this year to fight the global pandemic. Vilnius did the same. There will be no Christmas markets this year we are used to see. However Vilnius made a virtual Christmas market anyone can visit and support local craftsmen, makers, creators, little shops and so on. Check E-Christmas market and get something cozy for Christmas online. Shop in this virtual Christmas market until 7th of January, 2021.
International Christmas charity bazaar organized by International Women's Association of Vilnius also moved online. This event unofficially is known as the start of Christmas season. All the money made during the bazaar is used for charity. This fair will run from 1st of December till 22nd of December.
Vilnius was decorated a lot this year to increase Christmas spirit despite all the restrictions we have to face. One of the initiatives by the city is to encourage citizens of Vilnius to decorate their balconies. Even though we have to stay home we can surprise our neighbours with original decorations. Jolita Vaitkutė opened the initiative by decorating one of the balconies in Vilnius Old Town with falling Christmas tree and pangolin on the top.
The balcony in Vilnius Old Town decorated by J. Vaitkutė - The Tree that Flies from the Balcony and the Pangolin
The decoration of Vilnius balconies will continue until 29th of December. You can check decorated balconies for Christmas by other Vilnius artists or you can see how creative citizens of Vilnius decorated their balconies in different parts of Vilius.
Every year before Christmas we had a very fun Christmas run in Vilnius for everyone. People dressed like snowmen, snow whites, Santa Clauses, elves, dwarfs, deer, etc. would fill the streets of Vilnius Old Town and make it feel like Christmas! This year due to global pandemic Christmas Run will happen as well, however everyone is encourage to run alone at their chosen time and location from 15th of Decmber until 31st of December. Anyone can choose the preferred distance from 12 km, 6 km, 3 km and 300 m (known as ’Dwarf run’ for the little ones) when registering online and upload your tracked results after you ran your distance. This is definitely not the same as Vilnius Old Town filled with Christmas characters, music and joy, but you can still spot running Santa anywhere in the city.
Did you know that the patron saint of Vilnius is St. Christopher? The legend has it that a long time ago a strong man lived who wanted to find and serve the God. A saint hermit once told him that he can serve the God by carrying travellers across the flooded river. And so he did. Once a crying boy showed asking Cristopher to carry him across the river. The storm broke while crossing the river, the boy was getting more and more heavy. They almost drowned, but Christopher managed to take the boy to the other side. When Christopher asked what happened and why the boy was so heavy, the boy replied he was the Christ with all the difficulties of the world. St. Christopher is also known as the patron saint of travellers.
Last year a 4 meter installation of St. Christopher travelled all around Vilnius. You could see him in different neighbourhoods for a few days. This year the installation of St. Christopher was spotted in front of Vilnius Town hall. Will he stay there for the whole Christmas season?
The installation of St. Christopher travelling around different neighbourhoods in Vilnius
And here you have it - the things locals are excited about this year. Yes, Vilnius Christmas is definitely different this year! But let’s do our best to stop the spread of COVID-19, stay safe & healthy so we could enjoy other celebrations in the future the way we are used to See you in 2021!