Born in the very beginning of 13th century, Mindaugas was the first known Grand Duke of Lithuania and the only King of Lithuania. His coronation took place in 1253. The exact date of the important event hasn’t been traced but, according to a hypothesis by a Kaunas-born historian Edvardas Gudavičius, we all agree it could happen on July 6th. Therefore, since 1991, July 6th is celebrated as the Statehood Day in Lithuania!
Even though it’s reminding us about events that happened almost 800 years ago, the Statehood Day is one of the “youngest” official holidays, and we don’t have so many traditions of spending it. But there’s one, and it’s the most beautiful – Every July 6th at 9 pm Lithuanian time everyone in the country and Lithuanians around the world sing our National anthem.
In Kaunas, the biggest crowd will gather to sing the anthem near the castle. This is where a sculpture (almost 7 m high) of a warrior of freedom, also called Vytis by most people (Vytis is the knight depicted on our coat of arms and historic flag, as well as Euro coins made in Lithuania) was opened on July 5th, 2018. The singing of the anthem will be followed by a Lithuanian opera called “Radvila Perkūnas” shown right there at Kaunas castle field. The premiere of the opera by one of the most popular Interwar composers Jurgis Karnavičius took place at the Kaunas State Theatre 80 years ago, in 1937, with the libretto written by none other than Balys Sruoga. The piece tells a love story within the context of the events that were disastrous for Lithuania in the 16th and 17th century. The free opera night is part of the “Operetta at the Kaunas Castle” festival.
The National Anthem will also be sung on one of the hill forts in Kaunas – the Jiesia hill also called the Napoleon hill. A few local folk ensembles will perform as well, starting at 8 pm. – don’t forget to take a camping chair or a blanket as you might want to spend some time on the hill.
If you happen to own a yacht, then sail right to the Kaunas reservoir bay between Pažaislis monastery and Yacht club. That's right – local sailors have agreed to start meeting at 8 pm and prepare to sing the Lithuanian anthem together with the rest of the world.
Another great thing to do on Statehood Day is watching a record number – 100! – of hot air balloons rise and land at the Nemunas island. The festival called “Wind of Freedom” gathered air balloon pilots from all around the world and expects to beat a few Lithuanian records. The festival will continue through July 8th.
If you’re in town for a full day on July 6th, come to the Vytautas the Great War Museum (the essential source of information on Lithuanian history!) garden at noon to enjoy a carillon music concert from the bell tower. Carillonist Austėja Staniunaitytė has prepared a unique Statehood Day programme, including Lithuanian folk music and pieces by Juozas Naujalis, Česlovas Sasnauskas, Galina Savinienė and Balys Dvarionas.
The National M. K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art, as well as all of its departments (Kaunas Picture Gallery, Devils’ Museum, M. Žilinskas Art Gallery etc.), will be open on the Statehood Day (11 am – 5 pm). Many fantastic exhibitions are now running all around town, so the bank holiday might be a great chance to visit a handful of them.
Kaunas City Museum and its departments will also be working on the royal Friday. Even more exciting exhibits to discover! We recommend you visit the Kaunas Town Hall, also the department of Kaunas City Museum, and see a great photography exhibition from the archives of Stanislovas Lukošius. The artist took a great deal of black and white photos in the 1950s!
Enjoy remembering Lithuania’s only king – and don’t forget public transport is free of charge in Kaunas on the Statehood Day.
All pictures by Andrius Aleksandravičius