The Kaziukas Festival, celebrating Vilnius’ patron saint, St. Casimir, is one of the merriest events in Vilnius. The festival takes place at the beginning of March and is celebrated with thousands of vendors selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to handicrafts and art. Held each year on the weekend nearest St. Casimir’s Feast Day (March 4th), this is one party you should try to attend.
The Kaziukas Festival is big, occupying the area from Gedimino pr. to Cathedral Square, up Pilies g. to Town Hall Square, and all the way past Bernardine Park and up Maironio g. Live concerts and folk dances take place on stages set up on Gedimino pr. and in Cathedral Square. Visitors will see numerous street performers and women dressed in traditional outfits of long, striped skirts throughout the festival grounds. A procession of Kaziukas, crafters, and locals occurs on Saturday moving throughout the streets of the festival. In 2017, the Kaziukas Festival will be celebrated from March 3 to 5.
To have the best experience at the Kaziukas Festival, you should plan to arrive early to beat the crowds that come later in the day. Crowds are the most concentrated from Town Hall Square, down Pilies g. to Cathedral Square while Maironio g. tends to be less crowded.
A highlight of the Kaziukas Festival is the traditional crafts for sale. Numerous vendors sell intricate hand carved homewear such as furniture, bowls, platters, and boxes. Make sure that the items on sale are all slightly different from each other. This will insure that you are purchasing something handmade and unique to Lithuania (Sometimes vendors try to sneak in some mass produced items).
Another item that you will see a lot during the Kaziukas Festival are the hand painted Easter eggs, either painted on wooden eggs or the shells of blown eggs. In Lithuania, eggs are traditionally created in one of two ways: by either scratching the surface of the eggshell or by applying wax with a small tool before dying.
In Lithuania bouquets are used in place of palms during Palm Sunday. These Easter palms, called verbos in Lithuanian, are beautiful, colorful and made with dried flowers and specially arranged on a wooden stick. You’ll see them for sale during the festival.
Other handicrafts include woollen items, handmade jewelry, toys, antiques, and pottery. Unique artwork and pottery can typically be found in stalls near the Vilnius Academy of Arts (Dailes Akademija) on Maironio g. near St. Anne’s Church.
An outdoor party is only as good as its food, right? Well, the Kaziukas Festival has numerous stalls preparing great street food. Sizzling pans of sausages and fragrant sauerkraut fry in large cast iron pans. Cauldrons of a savory chilli like dish are also ubiquitous. Another common sight are vendors selling cured meats, smoked fish, cheeses, and a limited selection fresh vegetables. Perfect for picking up ingredients to whip up a meal!
Visitors with a sweet tooth should keep an eye out for large stalls selling grybukai, gingerbread cookies, and an amazing jam and cheese bread pie. If you’re lucky, the baklava baker will also be selling her delicious honey walnut pastries, which are a rare treat in Vilnius. Numerous other sweet treats abound.
Drinks are also flowing with vendors selling gira (kvass, a fermented bread drink) and beer. A few vendors specialize in herbal teas as well as Lithuanian honey.
Lithuania hosts really excellent festivals, and this is the largest and best festival of all, making it an excellent time for visitors to plan their trip. Be sure to book an accommodation well in advance as Vilnius sees an influx of local and international visitors.