2021-11-29 Back to list

A City Protected by Santa Claus (The Incredible Story of Kaunas Christmas Trees)

Have you heard that for more than 500 years, St. Nicholas – the ancient prototype of Santa Claus – has been the patron saint of Kaunas?

The feast day of St. Nicholas is December 6, yet the official Christmas season in Kaunas traditionally starts even earlier. It has launched on November 27 this year and will last until January 6. The tradition ensures the Christmas vibe in our city is unique and authentic – one could even call Kaunas the unofficial Christmas capital of Lithuania and the Baltics! Let’s take a look at contemporary events and festivities that continue the authentic traditions.

Firstly, St. Nicholas actually pays a visit to Kaunas on December 6 – on this day, the city keys are passed on to him as a sign of trust, the ritual taking place t the Town Hall Square. Not far from it is the St. Nicholas Church, a tiny yet divinely beautiful place that one must visit during the festive period. You can do it before or after visiting Town Hall Square, which is the epicentre of the Christmas spirit. Time to take a picture of the Christmas tree and get some mulled wine and delicious curd doughnuts in one of the stands at the market.

Jolanta Šmidtienė, a textile artist and the founder of Balta gallery, is one of the key persons responsible for creating the festive spirit in Kaunas. For more than ten years now, she always comes up with an astonishing idea that surprises both residents and guests of Kaunas, as well as spectators online. One of her ideas has even made it into the Guinness World Records!

This year, the artist created a magical Garden of Eden in the Kaunas Town Hall Square: “The idea came to me when I was thinking about the essence of the holiday, which is the birth of Christ and the association with the promised garden. The latter is often imagined as the oasis of mysteries, colours and warmth. I wanted people to remember that paradise is, in fact, a moment on Earth when we can take a breath and feel the calmness – as if laying on the grass in the summertime, watching butterflies passing by.”

1+ Photo A. Aleksandravičius

2+Photo A. Aleksandravičius

Let’s look back at the timeline of the unique Christmas trees of Kaunas. In 2009, the tree brought to the city from the Kaunas District lured everyone with its frosty pedestal, reminding of a cosy cabin in the woods. You could even enter it – it’s probably why the tree won the ‘beauty contest’ in Lithuania. In 2010, the scenery changed entirely as the artistic crew created bird figures that surrounded the tree – and spread beautiful sounds, too.

Today, sustainability is one of the most-used words, and ten years ago, it was a brave decision. 2011 was the year when the whole world heard about the extraordinary Christmas spirit of Kaunas. The 16-meter tall tree was constructed from more than 32 thousand plastic bottles – green, of course. The ecological surprise rising the question of how much plastic is produced every day was awarded as the world’s tallest plastic bottle sculpture and included in the Guinness World Records.

242Photo A. Aleksandravičius 

In 2012, the Kaunas tree was once again elected the most beautiful in Lithuania – thanks to the traditional luxury and hope-promising light it spread in the Town Hall Square. A natural 20-year old tree was put on top of the construction, followed by dancing angels and 20 smaller trees at the bottom.

243Photo A. Aleksandravičius

Kaunas wore white for holidays in 2013, and the main tree reminded of a sweater knit by someone’s grandma. It was actually knit from plastic bags – and followed the ecological idea path. 2014 was again the year of white colour, yet the knitwear was replaced by fluffy clouds and sweet, sweet angels.

5+Photo A. Aleksandravičius

The Kaunas Christmas tree looked very traditional in 2015, but it wasn’t. It was the first smart tree out there, controlled via the internet. Much to everyone’s surprise, its decorations would become alive when people passed by. In 2016, a carousel served as the base of the tree and turned out to be a cosy spot to meet for a cup of warm tea.

6+Photo A. Aleksandravičius 

2014Photo A. Aleksandravičius

A contemporary construction from shiny blocks was set up in 2017, only to turn back to the classics in 2018. Yet again, the decision was sustainable – the decorations were constructed from plastic straws and then reused in 2019 when the motif for holidays was The Little Prince.

2017Photo A. Aleksandravičius

2018+Photo A. Aleksandravičius                

2019Photo A. Aleksandravičius 

2020+Photo A. Aleksandravičius 

2020 brought unexpected challenges to the world, but for genuine artists, everything is an inspiration. Even though the lighting ceremony of the Christmas tree could only be seen online and on TV, Kaunasians and their guests used the holiday month to enjoy the meringue-themed tree and the Christmas Market, full of good mood and festive music.

Even if you haven’t yet visited Kaunas in Winter, 2021 is an excellent year to start a new tradition. Why not take a selfie in front of the Kaunas Christmas tree – now, in 2022 and for many years in the future? Once you update your Instagram, the cafes, bars, museums, galleries and other fantastic places in Kaunas will be ready with more festive action, including exhibitions, concerts and other exciting events.


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