Hail to the King

  • 2004-02-26
  • By Jayde Will
VILNIUS - Spring often seems to be continually deferred here in the Baltics, and the lack of sun makes you wonder if you need to install some floodlights in your flat to remember that it even exists.

Happily, the Kaziuko Muge (St. Casimir's Fair) brings a little, much-needed relief to these drab, pre-spring days. It's one of the biggest outdoor events of the year, attracting folk artists, musicians, and people of all ages from all over Lithuania.
Indeed, for Lithuanians, St. Casimir's Fair, along with Shrovetide, is this Baltic nation's answer to the livelier sounding Mardi Gras.
The festival is held in honor of Saint Casimir, who as the son of the king of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, ruled in the 15th century. His early death and legendary status made him a hugely popular figure, and he was canonized by Pope Clement VIII in 1602.
In Lithuania alone there are some 12 churches named after St. Casimir, with many Lithuanian parishes abroad also heading their stationary with his name.
The tradition of St. Casimir's Fair grew out of the pilgrims that came to Vilnius in the 17th century in honor of the Lithuanians' patron saint. This trip to the city developed into a full-blown affair, and is now celebrated in a three-day event (March 4 - 7), which is spread out all over Vilnius' Old Town.
The outdoor event is chock full of drinks to keep you warm during these chronically chilly days, while accordion music keeps you on your toes. Best of all, the sweet smells of all manner of traditional Lithuanian food wafts around in a delirious cloud.
As ever with this sort of thing, there are also all kind of traditional arts and crafts on display. Tourists tend to go in for the Vilnius verbos, a stick with dried flowers and grasses braided around it. People traditionally take them to church on Palm Sunday and afterward decorate their house with it.
Weaving your way around the throng of people and stalls, you'll see all the usual knitted hats, trinkets and wooden objects of every imaginable function. So grab a cup of java to remind you that spring has a way of bringing everyone together (even if it's still three months away).

March 4 - March 7
Vilnius Old Town
for more info
Visit www.vilnius.lt