The Lithuania Tribune
It’s not with the first flowers, the returning of birds, or the warmer temperatures that spring starts in Vilnius – Kaziukas Fair (Kaziuko mugė) marks its beginning on 1-3 March. Filled with songs, crafts, and scrumptious food, the city’s oldest and largest fair is an experience to remember. Taking over the streets of the Old Town, the fair cherishes some of Vilnius’ ancient traditions while also embracing modern ones, making for an adventure that is both dynamic and unique. From culinary heritage and innovative food experiments, traditional performances and modern entertainment, to archaic crafts and contemporary design pieces – there’s so much to explore.
Who is this Kaziukas? And why is there a fair named after him? History has it that the first Kaziukas Fair took place in 1604 in the name of the canonised St. Casimir, son of Polish King and Grand Duke of Lithuania Casimir IV. Famous to this day for his piousness and generosity towards the sick and poor, the beloved St. Casimir (lovingly called Kaziukas) is a patron saint of Lithuania and Lithuanian youth. Over the centuries, this fair has become a spring festival celebrating the return of warmth and greenery. Taking place right in the heart of the Old Town, the fair brings the whole city to life, which makes it the perfect time to explore.
Revamped ancient traditions
Being 416 years old doesn’t mean this fair is boring or dated. Kaziukas Fair is young at heart and always looking for ways to be the hottest fair of the year. Younger craftspeople and contemporary Lithuanian designers don’t feel out of place next to the traditional basket weavers and gingerbread stalls. Ice-skating in spring? The trend has moved from New York to Vilnius, the only European capital with an outdoor ice rink open until March. This year, Kaziukas Fair invites visitors to join competitions on the ice, enjoy the fun and become a part of new traditions.
Three ways to get the full experience
Shop ’til you drop
But of course, it’s a fair! Buying at least a small souvenir is a must, but it’s easy to get dizzy with choices. Watching how locals shop will help visitors spot the most traditional items – there will be many people walking around with a necklace made of Baranka (bagel-like roll), carrying a traditional Verba (an intricate palm bouquet) or a wooden spatula, and there will be long lines at the smoked sausage and wicker baskets stalls. But finding a unique gem is the most fun – amber jewellery, linen dresses, hand-painted scarfs, one-of-a-kind art pieces and trinkets are waiting to be uncovered. Younger craftspeople and modern design pieces can be easily found at Cathedral Square.
Support a cause
Kaziukas Fair is a wonderful place for good deeds. Various communities in need make crafts all year round to participate in the fair and draw attention to their causes. For instance, a simple pinwheel can be a great souvenir that can simultaneously support young cancer patients. The stalls are usually marked and easily spotted, so if it’s there is only space for one thing in your bag, getting something that supports a charitable cause is always a good choice. The youngest sellers, aged 14 and under, will show off their skills and sell handmade crafts at the Central Post Office.
Eat your heart out
A large part of the fair revolves around food – delicious aromas fill the streets making everyone hungry. The food market offers traditional dishes like sausages, potato pancakes, sauerkraut, and stews, as well as delicious dishes from all over the world. Taking back something as a souvenir is a must: smoked eel, organic honey, hand-picked herbal teas, endless rows of hams, special gingerbread and long colourfully wrapped candies are all staples of Kaziukas Fair.