Vilnius celebrated the beginning of this year’s Christmas season with a ceremony of lighting the city’s main tree. With lights in the shape of a giant birthday cake, the installation foreshadows the 700th anniversary that Vilnius is celebrating in 2023. The Christmas tree on Cathedral Square is 25-metres-high and 22 metres in diameter. It is encircled by 700 candle-shaped lights, marking the city’s official age.
“This year’s Christmas tree is a bright invitation to visit the capital of Lithuania and a special birthday greeting to Vilnius. We hope that this magnificent and enchanting Christmas tree, like the letters written by the 14th century Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania, will become a letter from Vilnius to Europe and the whole world today, and that the news of Vilnius’ 700th anniversary will spread widely,” said Paulius Jurgutis, director of the Vilnius Culture Centre.
Vilnius is planning a Christmas program budget of just under half a million euros and is expecting about 100,000 tourists from Lithuania and abroad. “If we reach these numbers, it will be a great success, and in monetary terms, if we multiply the 200 euros that one tourist leaves behind, it would be about 20 million euros for the country and the city,” says Inga Romanovskienė, head of Go Vilnius.
LRT.lt reports that amid a drive for austerity, thee will be fewer lights in many cities, but hopefully the festive mood will not be sombre. In previous years, the Christmas lights on Laisvės Avenue in Kaunas used to be turned on throughout the day. This year the, the city will be switching them off at midnight. There will be fewer festive decorations in parks and neighbourhoods further away from the centre. Lithuania’s main cities expect to have more Christmas tourists this year. Tourism experts say that Kaunas hotels are already fully booked for the Christmas weekend.