During the late 19th and 20th centuries, many Lithuanian immigrants settled in the Anthracite coal region of north-eastern Pennsylvania. They were simple, ordinary people from small towns and villages of Lithuania.
The men laboured long and hard hours in the coal mines. Their parish became the centre of social and religious life and their philosophy was deeply rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ. The annual Lithuanian Days is a well-known memory and ongoing tradition for Lithuanian-Americans living in Pennsylvania.
It started in 1914 by the Lithuanian Catholic Priest League. The priests were troubled by problems faced by incoming immigrants, such as poor living conditions and the dangerous work environment from the mines. A change needed to occur and they pondered on how they could lift the morale and create a better lifestyle for Eastern European immigrants.
They cultivated the idea of a massive festival celebrated either on or close to 15th of August, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that rejoiced in life, family, community, and pride for their native land. Lithuanian Days at Lakeside Park was the first recorded ethnic celebration in the United States. Lithuanian immigrants enjoyed ethnic food, drink, tradition, and song every year.
In 1922, Lithuanian Days moved to Lakewood Park. All proceeds from the event went to Lithuanian charities. Eventually Council #144 became the primary sponsor for Lithuanian Days. It was held at Lakewood Park until its closing in 1984.
The festival continued in various locations, until thankfully, we were able to continue the Lithuanian Days celebration at the Schuylkill Mall, in Frackville, PA. This year, 16 and 17 August 2014, we will be celebrating our 100th year, making Lithuanian Days the longest consecutive ethnic festival in the USA.
This year many special guests will be attending including, Mindaugas Žičkus, Lithuanian Embassy Washington, D.C., Krista Bard, Horary Consul of Lithuania, Philadelphia, PA, Monsignor Al Bartkus, Rector Emeritus Pontifical Lithuanian College in Rome, Italy, Regina Juska-Svoba, President of the National Knights of Lithuania Commissioner George Halcovage, Schuylkill County, PA and Judge John Domalakes, Court of Common Pleas, Schuylkill County, PA.
Amber the “Gold of the Baltics” was chosen as the theme because it is the symbol of Lithuania and the soul of its people. The Lithuanian word for amber is “gintaras”. It is used in the Lithuanian language for all sorts of reasons: people’s names, restaurants, hotels, festivals, museums and more.
Tourists will find shops everywhere that sell genuine Baltic amber in some form of jewellery, souvenirs, paintings, sculptures and even as art on furniture and wall coverings.
This precious stone formed millions of years ago from the resin of pine forests, which was later flooded by the Baltic Sea. The ancient Greeks and Romans considered amber to be “tears of the sun”. For thousands of years pine sap encased ancient fossilized plants and animals preserving them forever. When the tree sap combined with oxygen, it hardened and morphed into irregular golden nuggets. The best quality as well as the largest concentration of amber lies in the Baltic Sea located in Eastern Europe.
During the celebration, traditional Lithuanian food such as Cold Beet Soup (Šaltibarščiai), Potato Pudding (Kugelis), Meatballs (Kotletai), Lithuanian Sausage (Dešros), Potato Pirogues (Koldūnai su Bulvių Įdaru), Cabbage Rolls (Balandėliai), Fresh Dill Pickles (Agurkas), and Sweet Sauerkraut Salad (Saldžių Raugintų Kopūstų Salotos.) There will also be a Boilo Tasting Event and Lithuanian beer available at the Screening Room Bar.
Entertainment will include a Lithuanian Polka Band, Kolorado Romas, and the Varpelis Folk Band. Three dance ensembles are scheduled to perform. There will be a special slide show/Video presentation of past Lithuanian Days celebrations at Lakewood park courtesy of the Mahanoy Area Historical Society. The Heritage room will highlight amber and showcase a Medieval minting coin demonstration by Alex Radzius.