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Here for the holidays?

  • 2007-12-19

MERCANTILE MIRTH: Despite its commercialism, the Christmas Market in Tallinn is a cheerful place to spend time.

It's that time of year 's Many Baltic-based expats will soon be leaving to spend Christmas with the family in Glasgow or jetting off to a package tour in Pattaya. For those hardy souls who are staying put for the season though, we've compiled a list of a few Christmas and New Year's events that should help ward off the winter blues.

Tallinn
The most central place to fill up on holiday spirit (and spirits) is the Christmas Market on Town Hall Square, open daily through Dec. 30, and from Jan. 3 - 6. In addition to selling a weird selection of artsy gifts to tourists, it's also a good place to pick up a cup of spiced wine and listen to live concerts 's everything from choral to rock 's performed at the busier times of day.
Anyone looking for a more involved and cultured offerings should check the schedule for the Tallinn Winter Festival, which is comprised of six classical concerts to be held from Dec. 27 - Jan. 12. "Open Your Eyes, Open Your Heart" is the name of the event, which is a benefit for a special needs children's daycare center. Concerts take place in the Town Hall, St. John's Church and St. Charles' Church. See www.plmf.ee for details.

A specific concert in St. John's Church 's a performance of J.S. Bach Christmas cantatas 's will be about as Christmasy as it comes. The performance, which takes place Dec. 27 at 7 p.m., stars Ka Bo Chan (counter tenor), Tonis Tamm (bass), and Andres Mustonen of Hortus Musicus fame (violin) and Mari-Liis Uibo (violin).
Soloists Gerli Padar and Tanel Padar (a brother and sister who have independently become successful rock singers) will fuse their pop act with the sounds of the Parnu City Orchestra in a Dec. 28 performance at the Estonia concert hall. The event will combine holiday music with a choice of the soloists' pop hits. Tickets and information are at www.concert.ee.

Traditionally Tallinn's poshest Dec. 31 event is the Estonian National Opera's New Year's Eve Ball, tickets for which are a mere 700 's 1,500 kroons (45 's 95 euros) plus a few more hundred for the pre-ordered dinner. The program consists of a classical ballet program, a musical, and ball dancing to the sound of the Estonian National Opera symphony orchestra. For details see www.opera.ee.

New Year's Eve fireworks are traditionally fired off from the Harju hill adjacent Old Town, and can best be seen from Freedom Square.

Riga
Dailes Teatris (Beautiful Theater) is holding a series of Christmas concerts throughout the holiday season. The shows will feature traditional Latvian Christmas songs, including pieces by famous Latvian musicians Raimonds Pauls and Janis Peteris. The shows will play on Dec. 20, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29. Tickets cost between six and 15 lats, and are available at www.bilesuparadize.lv.

On Dec. 22, 23 and 25 a Winter Night Snow takes place at Kipsala hall and claims to feature "Latvian music stars." More info at bilesuparadize.lv.

Fireworks will be launched at numerous points around the city on New Year's night. The best places to see the show will be in front of the Freedom Monument 's where thousands of people will gather to drink, dance and watch the fireworks display. Another great place to see a fireworks show is on the Akmens Tilts (the stone bridge) over the Daugava River. The bridges are probably the best place in town to see the show 's but you're advised to get there early because they fill up fast.

If anyone has the irresistible urge to kick off 2008 with a mosh pit, Club Depo in Riga is the place to be. Lt. Mosh, a hardcore metal band from Germany, will be making an appearance at the venue for a New Year's bash. The party starts at 10 p.m., and tickets cost between six and eight lats.

Andrejsala 's the home of punks, hippies and artists 's is throwing a massive New Year's party known as "Grand New Year's Night." The party, headed by Club Pulkvedis, will run from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. and feature renowned electronic music star Mr Sam. Tickets are 30 lats, more information is available at www.relaxia.lv.

Vilnius
Echoes of Christmas music in Vilnius churches
A series of free, classical music concerts called "Echoes of Christmas music in Vilnius churches" will be held, strangely enough, in various churches around Vilnius from Dec. 22 to Jan. 6. featuring Lithuania's most talented musicians and performers. Opera soloists, pianists, instrumentalists, organists, actors, poets will light up the stage. A schedule, though hard to find, is posted on www.eb.lt.

Dec. 22 marks the Blukas fest. According to ancient Lithuanian custom, when the winter solstice arrives, a Blukas (a.k.a. Yule log) is dragged through courtyards. The Blukas symbolizes the flow of the past time, unfinished work and unfulfilled expectations. According to Lithuanian customs, after it is burned, the troubles of the old year come to an end. The event takes place in various Vilnius locations. Contact the Vilnius Center for Ethnic Activities,  tel. 370 5 279 1288, or www.etno.lt, for details.

Far outdoing what the Christmas tree in Cathedral Square has to offer, Project The Light of the Millennium will turn the Vilnius TV Tower 's  the tallest building in Lithuania 's into the city's tallest Christmas tree with the help of 6,000 bulbs and 500 flashing lights. The lights come on daily at 4 p.m. from Dec. 25 to Jan. 7.

A festive Christmas Concert to be held on Dec. 26 in Cathedral Square will feature Lithuanian pop favorites Alanas Chosnau, Mantas Irena Starosaite, Vaidas, Aiste Pilyelyte, Taja, Eva and Jokubas, Linas Adomaitis, Lina Joy and many others. The national TV channel (LRT) will do a live broadcast of the event, which runs from 7 p.m. to 8:25 p.m.

Cathedral Square is the best place to go see the city's New Year's Eve fireworks display. From here you'll get a clear view of the colorful rockets as they're fired off from atop nearby Tauro Hill

If you are dying to find how Lithuanians toss out their Christmas trees, it's a good idea to visit the Teachers' House at 5 p.m. on Jan. 8 for an event called Farewell, Christmas Tree! Every year children and adults are welcomed to the courtyard of the Teacher's House where they bring their Christmas trees to burn in a bonfire. Guests will be offered hot tea, games, a theatrical concert and other warm surprises. Call +370 5 212 2725 for details.

Ice Skating
For those looking to do a little bit of ice skating over the holidays, or looking for a way to get the kids out of the house, here are some suggestions:

Hands down, the most popular and romantic skating spot in Tallinn is the Uisuplats adjacent Harju Street in Old Town. The festive location sits between St. Nicholas Church and other historic buildings, and is decorated with bright lights and other happy Christmas decor. It's also conveniently open every day through the holidays. Tickets for adults cost 50 - 60 kroons (3.20 - 3.80 euros), while skate rental will set you back another 20 kroons.    

In Riga, Esplanade Park and the Lido recreation center offer the best rinks. One can also marvel at the grace of ice skating child prodigies with "Ice Remix," an ice dance show appearing in various locations throughout Latvia from Dec. 21 - 26. Tickets go from 3.50 to 5 lats (5 - 7 euros).
12.21: Ventspils Ice Hall. 18:00.
12.22: Jurmala Volvo Hall. 14:00. 16:00.
12.25: Daugavpils Ice Hall. 16:00.
12.26: Jelgava Ice Hall. 19:00.

For convenience 's and the fact that it's indoors 's the Akropolio Ledas in the Akropolis shopping mall (Ozo 25) is an easy option in Vilnius. Here skating costs 8 - 12 litas (2.30 - 3.50 euros). The advantage here is that you can escape to one of the restaurants or the cinema once your ankles start to get sore.