It’s not Christmas market or even Black Friday which excites the locals in Vilnius. Oh no! The most important market of the year is the Kaziukas fair! It takes place annually on the weekend closest to Saint Casimir‘s Day (4 March). That‘s 3-5 March, 2023.
Kaziukas is a diminutive form of the name Kazimieras. As in Casimir Jagiellon (3 October 1458 – 4 March 1484) who was a prince of the Kingdom of Poland and of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. During his lifetime the prince was known for his piety, devotion to God, and generosity towards the sick and poor. Sadly, he passed away before ascending to the throne. He was buried in Vilnius Cathedral and his cult grew over the years. Eventually Casimir was declared a saint in 1602. Since then Saint Casimir became a patron saint of Lithuania and Lithuanian youth.
But why a fair?
Originally many markets and fairs in Europe were associated with saints. In medieval times those fairs would start after celebrations in churches and processions across the town. Vilnius was no different. On the day of Saint Casimir’s death, 4 March, craftspeople and farmers from across the region would come to Vilnius to participate in religious celebrations and later use the chance to sell their goods. The first known procession and a fair was held in 1604. So it’s the oldest and largest fair in Lithuania.
What to expect?
Everything! The streets of Vilnius old town will be filled with live music, theater performances, traditional crafts and delicious food (sometimes even vegetarian). But it’s not only ancient traditions, which are celebrated here. There’s no shortage of contemporary Lithuanian design pieces or innovative food experiments too.
So it’s not a surprise that the fair is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Vilnius. Tens of thousands of visitors and many craftsmen from across Lithuania as well as from neighboring countries visit Vilnius just for this weekend alone. Some even say that it has no equal in neighboring countries…
Where and when it’s happening?
As we mentioned previously, Kaziukas fair will be held on 3-5 March. It takes place in the heart of Vilnius old town. Hundreds of stands and stalls will fill Gediminas Avenue, Šventaragio, T. Vrublevskio, B. Radvilaitės, Maironio, Vokiečių and Pilies Streets.
Contemporary Lithuanian designs will be displayed at the Cathedral square. And local art students usually cluster in Maironio street next to Vilnius Academy of arts (Maironio str. 6).
What is a must-have souvenir from Kaziukas fair?
Everyone has a different taste, but there are certain things you should keep an eye for.
First of all, you’ll see a lot of traditional Easter palms (known as verba in Lithuanian). Sometimes it’s a simple bouquet made of willow, birch, pussy-willow and juniper branches. But it can also be an intricate dried flower composition secured on a hazel stem. It’s not only a beautiful decoration. Oh no! Locals bless them in churches on Palm Sunday to protect themselves and their home from hardships, fires and natural disasters!
Secondly, look at anything wickerwork. Anyone can buy an IKEA basket, but you will definitely stand out with a new wickerwork craft from Kaziukas fair. The only question is - how many can you fit in your luggage?
Last but not least - a wooden spoon and a ceramic bowl. So you could taste all the delicious food without single-use plastics!
What foods to try?
Gingerbreads! Yes, it sounds christmassy, but in Lithuania gingerbreads are popular all year round. It’s definitely one of the most sought-after souvenirs among the fair-goers since the inception of the event. Shaped as hearts, flowers or even Gediminas tower, with lovely greetings and different names - you’ll have some trouble choosing one.
Close second is Baranka (something like bagel shaped pastry). It is a unique product found only once a year and only at Kaziukas Fair. It’s considered good manners to bring back at least one baranka to anyone, who was not able to attend the fair themselves. And don’t bother asking for a bag to store them. We wear strings of barankas as necklaces!
Last but not least - honey products. Did you know that the happiest bees in Europe are from Lithuania? We’ll never get sick of this fun fact. Honey cakes, honey based alcohols, honey candies or sauces. It will sweeten your life until actual spring comes.
What to say?
Here is a dictionary of some useful words to use in the fair:
Kiek kainuoja? - How much does it cost?
Ačiū - Thank you
Prašau - please, here you go
Mugė - Fair or market
Labai gražu - It’s very beautiful
Dar vieną - One more
Kortele galima? - Can I pay by card?
Baranka - Bagel shaped pastry
Meduolis - Gingerbread
Verba - Easter palm
Medus - Honey