True Lithuania

Lithuanian traditional crafts

Much of the Lithuanian ethnic crafts are useful products for day-to-day needs. These are woven textiles (blankets, tablecloths) of colorful geometric designs, wickerwork baskets and furniture, wooden crafts (such as spoons, plates and furniture decorated in cut-through patterns) and patterned metal crafts.

Today, however, all these have been largely outcompeted by manufactured goods, yet the original ethnic ones are still acquired for symbolic or art value during the many craftsmen fairs.

Wickerwork stall in the Vilnius Kaziukas fair. Nearly every festival in Lithuania has an accompanying fair, where a fair share of salesmen sell the traditional crafts. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Lithuanian wooden religious art and crafts are arguably the most famous. They include elaborate UNESCO-inscribed crosses and chapel-posts (roofed religious sculptures on poles). Rūpintojėlis is a traditional sculpture of a sad Jesus. Such religious crafts are typically erected outdoors: at the roadsides, next to one's home or at particular locations known as "holysites" (šventvietės).

Old roadside crosses at Zervynos village, Dzūkija National Park. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Lithuanian Jewelry has been traditionally made of metal, wood or amber. Amber jewelry is considered "the most Lithuanian one" due to Baltic amber being a local material that has few counterparts elsewhere. In fact, as early as 2000 years ago, amber was exported to the Roman Empire by the Baltic peoples.

Amber Jewelry in the Palanga museum of Amber. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Recently, however, the authentic Baltic metal jewelry designs have also regained popularity. They are often based on archeological finds and are more popular among the local women whereas amber is the preferred souvenir by foreigners.

Authentic Baltic metal jewelry in the Museum of archeology in Kernavė. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Some of the unique Lithuanian crafts are reserved for particular holidays. These include
Verbos - bouquets of dried plants used on the Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter). They represent the palm branches that were laid in Christ's path when he triumphantly entered Jerusalem. Many Verbos are crafted and sold by vendors in streets that day and then sanctified in the churches. Verbos are the most artful in southeast Lithuania.

Verbos at the museum of Verbos in Čekonikškės (Vilnius suburbs). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Equally famous are the masks crafted for Užgavėnės carnival. They are made of Papier Mâché and represent animals or stereotyped ethnic/social groups. Using those masks, people dress up as somebody else.

Užgavėnės masks. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Margučiai are artfully dyed/decorated Easter eggs which are then used for various contests (e.g. "whose egg is stronger" or "whose egg goes further when pushed"). Many families still dye their eggs at home rather than buying them at a shop.

Easter eggs (margučiai). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Among the unique crafts are the sodai ("gardens") that were usually reserved for weddings. These 3D contraptions of dried grass are extremely fragile and thus are not sold as souvenirs.

Sodai at Vilkaviškis regional museum (as one of the symbols of Lituanity, they are common in many locations related to ethnic heritage). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

See also: Visual arts in Lithuania , Top 10 Lithuanian folk arts.

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