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7 Wintertime Activities Lighting Up the Holiday Season in Snowy Lithuania

Even if Lithuania already resembles a snowy wonderland, the first days of winter mark the country’s further transformation into a luminous holiday paradise. Various wintertime activities — from light festivals to sparkling Christmas trees — not only illuminate the country’s streets but allow everyone’s soul to shine bright with seasonal cheer.

In many countries winter is often associated with a myriad of brightly-colored lights, lining every tree, home, and storefront. But Lithuania takes these seasonal trends and amplifies them, becoming transformed into a whimsical winter paradise. From impressive lighting displays at various festivals to enormous Christmas trees appearing in city squares — here are the seven Lithuanian wintertime activities locals and visitors can immerse themselves in holiday cheer and feel their souls light up.

Christmas trees: B-day cake and Queen’s robe. The lighting of the Christmas tree marks the joyful beginning of each city’s anticipation for winter festivities. However, Lithuania’s capital Vilnius’ Christmas tree this year is dedicated not only to that, but also to celebrate the upcoming 700th aniversary next year. The three-story, 25 m-tall birthday cake is decorated with 700 candles, toys, and around 10 kilometers of garlands and cables. If it’s not to gain the title of most beautiful tree in Europe, just as its predecessor, it at least makes a strong statement about awaiting the entire  years’ celebrations.

No lesser of a statement is made by the second largest city,  Kaunas, with its Christmas tree paying dues to Lithuanian culture and pride. Inspired by the work of Lithuanian artist, composer, and pioneer of abstract art, Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, the Kaunas Christmas tree is lladened with golden stars, reminiscent of a Queen’s regal robes often seen in artists paintings.

Skating in a former prison. This year, Vilnius’ skating rink will be opened in a space that is often recognised as one of the best examples of transforming difficult history into creative and meaningful existence. The century old Lukiškės Prison, serves as a multipurpose cultural and event space, worth visiting at every season. This winter it will house a sizable, unrestricted ice rink in the complex’s main courtyard. Jolly mood, fragrant food vans, and a variety of events, performances, activities, and music, will merge into a unique attraction for both young and old willing to enjoy the frosty Lithuanian winter.

Light installations transform the capital. Among the slew of activities that take over the city, the annual Vilnius Light Festival is one that stands out for transforming the Old Town and the city center into an eclectic outdoor exhibition. For three days, contemporary light installations, new media art, and the fusion of architecture and light pervade Vilnius’ streets and squares — shining new light on the city’s diverse mix of historical buildings. The birthday show will run from January 25–28.

Journey of light in a botanical garden. A peculiar continuation of the Lights Festival will sprawl across the Vilnius University Botanical Garden. Almost 200 hectares wide with over 10K various plants blooming, the botanical garden is a joy to the eyes during the warm season. However, in winter it will bloom in bursts of neon light, intricate sculptures, and immersive audial experiences. Known as Lumina Park — with analogs in four cities in Poland — the 2 km journey of light invites individuals and families to get lost in an eclectic array of sounds and colors.

A VR dive into the world of pioneer of abstract art. To keep warm during the coldest season of the year, Lithuania also offers experiences that allow one’s inner self to glow with joy. One those is the winner of prestigious international and national awards, the virtual reality film Angelų Takais, which celebrates the work of aforementioned M. K. Čiurlionis. The must-see film invites you to explore 60 of the painter's works in VR, accompanied by soundtrack created by using Čiurlionis and composers’ Mindaugas Urbaitis music. A 25-minute voyage along the trails of Angels — an experience that has reportedly left visitors moved to the point of tears.

Keeping warm in a 1957 café. After a break of several decades, legendary Vilnius cafe Rotonda invites Vilnius residents and visitors to visit and grab a cup of warm tea once again. The unusually-shaped, round café — anchored into the center of the park with fairy lights — lies right on the foot of the Gediminas Tower Hill. Originally opened in 1957, students, elders, and artists used to come here and pass their free time, enjoying the coffee, ice cream, and adjacent chestnut trees. As of this year, the café is now reborn as a family restaurant, which will not only offer visitors a space tailored to different celebrations, but also free activities for children.

Lanterns in folklore settings. One of the largest open-air ethnographic museums in Europe — The Open-Air Museum of Lithuania in Rumšiškės, Kaunas district —  changes its face during Christmas time and becomes the host for the 1000 Lights Festival. Developed from festival of simple paper and silk lanterns, today it exhibits lanterns of extraordinary shapes and astounding size. Brightly glowing flowers or fish, mystifying trees 4 m high, or descending cranes are just a few examples that will delight and astound everyone in Rumšiškės.