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Marking 100 Years of Lithuania’s Song Celebration: 13 Interesting Facts

Marking 100 Years of Lithuania’s Song Celebration: 13 Interesting Facts

For a century now, Lithuanians from across the globe have converged in a spectacular gathering known as the Lithuanian Song Celebration. This week-long festivity, which requires several years of preparations, holds deep significance as a symbol of unity, resilience, and cultural pride. The Song Celebrations emerged as poignant symbols of resilience and the relentless pursuit of freedom, serving as vital custodians for preserving cultural identity and cherished ancestral traditions.

Today, Lithuanians proudly uphold the mantle of safeguarding the treasured Song Celebration tradition, meticulously passing down this rich legacy to future generations.

We invite to embark on a captivating journey through the history of the Song Celebration, uncovering ten intriguing facts that illuminate the depth and significance of this beloved tradition:

1. The world’s first Song Festival unfolded in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1843, later finding roots in the Baltic States, where singing in native languages became an act of cultural resistance and unity.

2. Lithuania’s neighbouring countries, Latvia, and Estonia, embraced the choir singing tradition influenced by their German residents. Estonia’s Song Festival initiated by the men’s singing society, Vanemuine, commenced in Tartu in 1869.

3. Latvia closely followed suit, organizing their inaugural national Song Festival in Riga in 1873, an event that continues to thrive today.

4. The inaugural national Song Celebration, “Song Day,” debuted in Kaunas on August 23rd and 25th, 1924, establishing Kaunas as the annual beacon for this grand celebration.

5. The Celebration in 1924 encapsulated the enduring spirit of unity, resilience, and cultural pride. In order for around 10 thousand spectators to hear the 3,5 thousand voice choir well, the organizers of the first “Song Day” dug out two ponds between the singers and the audience to help the sound travel better.

6. The Lithuanian Song Celebration is historically linked with rainy weather – although the first “Song Day” was planned to take place on 23-24 August 1924, the second day of the festivities had to be postponed due to a downpour. When the weather improved, everyone reconvened and performed the second part of the programme on 25 August.

7. The Celebration first relocated from Kaunas to Vilnius in 1946. Although Lithuania was already occupied, it still featured the National Anthem.

8. Song Celebrations are an integral part of the Lithuanian identity – they are organized by expatriate communities across the globe. The first North American Lithuanian Song Celebration, for example, took place in 1956 and is still organized regularly.

9. The spectacular Vingis Park stage in Vilnius was built specifically for the Song Celebration in 1960 and can fit around 12 thousand singers. It has a twin in Tallinn, Estonia.

10. In 1964, the first Lithuanian Schoolchildren’s Song Celebration took place. Children had made up the majority of the Song Celebration participants since 1955 and it was decided they needed more occasions to perform a repertoire that was suitable and interesting for them. The tradition is still alive today.

11. UNESCO recognized the tradition of Song Celebrations in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2003.

12. Lithuanian Song Celebrations are currently where the whole country gathers to commemorate national jubilees. The 2009 Song Celebration, dedicated to the millennial anniversary of the first recorded mentioning of Lithuania’s name, attracted a record-breaking crowd of 42 thousand performers.

13. The 2018 Song Celebration in Vilnius was attended by the Japanese men’s choir “Jordan kai,” which has no family ties with Lithuania, and one Austrian choir, which learned the entire repertoire in Lithuanian and passed the selection process.

This centenary Celebration encapsulates the enduring spirit of unity, resilience, and cultural pride, preserving the treasured legacy of the Lithuanian Song Festival for generations to come.