True Lithuania

New Year Day in Lithuania

New Year Day (January 1st) is marked in Lithuania by massive fireworks. The vast majority of these are neither state nor municipality funded. There is a tradition for most Lithuanians to spend money (sometimes vast amounts of it) on fireworks in seasonal pyrotechnics stalls that are set up in every shopping mall and marketplace a month in advance. The government condones this - unlike at any other time no permit is needed to use fireworks between 11 PM December 31th and 1 AM January 1st. To see the most of it, one should find himself a high place in a major city (it is worth to stay at a taller hotel if you spend the New Year day in Lithuania).

While the fireworks may lack the choreographed display qualities of professional pyrotechnician's work it is the sheer number of them which impress the most as they are fired seemingly from every street and courtyard and this drags on for several hours (peaking at the midnight; video). Fireworks are followed by apocalyptical flocks of scared birds and fog-like smoke that engulfs Lithuanian cities.

New Year fireworks over Vilnius Old Town. Ordinary people fire out their stockpiles in several hours around New Year midnight. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Lithuanians typically celebrate New Year with friends and do it hedonistically (in contrast with Christian holidays which are family events). Any restaurant should be ordered in advance for that time.

New Year was especially promoted under the Soviet occupation (1940-1990) when the atheist regime unsuccessfully attempted to move Christmas traditions to New Year (by introducing "New Year trees", "New Year presents"). Only the state-controlled institutions (such as schools) followed this.

Lithuania lacks significant ethnic communities that celebrate New Year at any other date. However many people follow horoscopes - including the Chinese horoscopes which associate every year with some animal and element. This leads to a strange combination of Western and East Asian cultures where the Lithuanian media declares on January 1st which Chinese year had supposedly just begun (even though the real Chinese New Year is two months later).

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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