A Guide to the Lithuanian Festival in Baltimore, MD

Malūnas dancers in performance
Malūnas dancers in performance | © Rytis Grybauskas
Kate Elizabeth Orgera

Urban cultural festivals are a great way to celebrate the history and diversity of a city, whether by connecting with your own cultural heritage or by experiencing another. The yearly Lithuanian Festival of Baltimore is no exception, as one of the city’s longest-running cultural festivals. So, if you find yourself in Baltimore this May, wander over to the Hollins Market neighborhood for a taste of the Baltic.

About the Lithuanian Festival of Baltimore

The influence of Lithuanian culture in Baltimore dates back to the late 19th century. Thousands of Lithuanian immigrants settled in the port city from the 1880s–1920s, turning the area north of Hollins Street into “Little Lithuania.” Though many of their descendants have moved to the suburbs and beyond, the Lithuanian Festival of Baltimore has been a way for them to come together and celebrate their Baltic heritage every year since 1972. This late-spring event attracts vendors of traditional Lithuanian food, drink and folk crafts from the Chesapeake region and beyond.

Try authentic Lithuanian cuisine

You can’t have a great festival without great food, and Lithuanian cuisine definitely fits the bill. Start off with some cepelinai, Lithuania’s national dish. These large pork dumplings are made with potato dough and topped with a sour cream-and-bacon sauce. For meat lovers, you’ll find plenty of smoked meats, not to mention delicious bacon buns. Potatoes are a staple of Lithuanian cuisine, so get a side of potatoes or potato pancakes to go with your main dish.

Lithuanian food

If you want something on the cooler side, traditional borscht soup is served chilled and has a shocking pink color. You can also cool off with an imported Lithuanian beer or virytas, a honey liqueur. And don’t forget dessert! Pick up a Lithuanian tree cake, or sakotis, which has a unique shape made by cooking cake batter on a spit.

Experience Lithuanian folk music and dances

Lithuanian folk dancing has been present in Baltimore since World War II. As such, the Lithuanian Festival of Baltimore features performances from Baltimore’s own Malūnas senior and student folk dance groups. While the dances vary from year to year, favorites include the Abrūsėlis, a women’s dance meant to capture the movement of washing and drying towels, or their signature Malūnas dance, a lively number that simulates the windmills that the group is named after. Other regional dance groups frequently participate as well, such as the Philadelphia group Zilvinas and children from Washington D.C.’s Kristijonas Donelaitis Lithuanian School.

Performers from Malūnas couple up in a Lithuanian folk dance

Guests who want to join in the fun can stay for the party on Saturday night, which features live Lithuanian music, a DJ, and full bar service until midnight.

Learn the history of Lithuanians in Baltimore

1. Lithuanian Hall Association Inc

Library, Museum, Music Venue

© Bohemian Baltimore / WikiCommons

Because the Lithuanian Festival is now hosted at the historic Lithuanian Hall, festival guests can tour the hall’s museum and library, with exhibits detailing the history of Lithuania and Baltimore Lithuanians. This includes displays of Lithuanian handicrafts and jewelry, as well as historic photographs, artifacts, and more.

The 46th Annual Lithuanian Festival of Baltimore takes place May 12–13, 2018. Admission is $5 each day, with a $10 fee for Saturday night’s party. For more information, visit the festival website.

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