MUST-HAVE ITEM: Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius buys verbos, which are sticks with colored, dried flowers. It is considered to be a must-buy item at the Kaziukas Fair.
VILNIUS - On March 5-7, the Kaziukas Fair of traditional folk arts and crafts will occupy the entire Gedimino Avenue, the main street of Vilnius, as well as streets of the Old Town: Pilies Street, Sventaragio Street and the area near the Old Town Hall. This annual event attracts tens of thousands of people.
This year, the event is organized by the Concepts Events & Media company. In the beginning of February, already 1,000 traders took a license to sell their products at the street fair. The licenses will also be available at the fair’s information center during the fair. Trade in home-made products is encouraged, while those who intend to re-sell some mass production imported goods from China are not welcome. The fair usually attracts home-made production sellers from neighboring countries as well.
The Kaziukas Fair’s tradition originated in the 17th century. This tradition survived into the 21st century via the Soviet period. Then even hippies from Saint Petersburg (then Leningrad) arrived to enjoy this fair, which was not anti-Soviet, but not something Soviet, either. Kaziukas means “Little Kazimieras.” Kazimieras is the Lithuanian form of the name Casimir.
The fair is traditionally held close to St. Casimir’s Day, which is March 4. Casimir lived in the 15th century. He was a son of a Lithuanian grand duke. He was supposed to become the king of Hungary but this plan was blocked by the political situation in that country. On March 4, 1484, the pious Casimir died due to tuberculosis, at the age of 25, in Grodno (now in Belarus, then a town of Lithuania). His remains rest in the sarcophagus which is exposed in St. Casimir’s Chapel in Vilnius Cathedral. St. Casimir won fame for miracles. In 1604, the Pope of Rome elevated him to sainthood. St. Casimir is considered the patron saint of Lithuania. In the Italian masters-designed St. Casimir’s Chapel of Vilnius Cathedral there is an interesting painting, from 1520, where St. Casimir is portrayed with three hands. According to the legend, the artist kept putting a layer of paint on this extra hand but it reappeared through the paint. The painter left the third hand considering it a miracle.
Kaziukas Fair’s traditional products are verbos, which are sticks with colored, dried flowers. Other most popular products for sale are wooden spoons, metal crafting, knitted clothes, home-made beer, folk-style paintings, and small sculptures made of clay. The recently discovered German-made documentary about Kaziukas Fair in the 1930s shows that at that time, apart of verbos, the most popular item of the fair was heart-shaped honey cookies with various inscriptions about love. The tradition of the cookies’ production for the fair has been resurrected in recent years. It is considered by Lithuanians to be a must to buy some folklore-style souvenir at Kaziukas Fair every year. The majority of people visit the fair because of the folklore atmosphere, created by folk music and lunch with traditional food. It is advisable to bargain for a cheaper price at the fair when buying some folk-style souvenir.