In 2003, the traditions and symbolism of the song festivals of the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) were attributed the status of masterpiece to be inscribed on the UNESCO Non-material Heritage List.
At the end of the 18th century, the Baltic States suffered similar historic developments and they were all annexed by the Russian Empire and therefore already in the 19th century the ethnic culture and folk songs in particular became a significant expression of the national identity that encouraged the ideas of breaking away from Russia and creating independent states. The process of the restitution of the independence of the Baltic States in 1990 is often called a “singing revolution”.
The tradition of song festivals came to the Baltic States from the Western Europe via Scandinavia. Firstly it came to Estonia and Latvia, and then to Lithuania. The song festivals found a highly acceptable medium in those countries, as the folk song and other folk culture traditions were actively fostered. The traditions and the national self-awareness of people helped this unique valuable cultural phenomenon that has no equal in the world to become rooted in the Baltic States.
Lithuanians gathered in the first national Day of Songs in 1924. In the interwar period, the national Song Festivals were held every second year, while the festivals in the regions and settlements were organised every year. Even in the soviet times the Song Festivals continued with folk songs and patriotic songs included into the repertoires. As soon as the repertoire of a song festival is approved, the preparations in the regions start, i.e. the local song festivals are held. Only the best folk groups are invited to the Song Festival in the capital.
Two types of song festivals take place in Lithuania: the song festivals for adults, including youth folk groups with the adult repertoire, and song festivals for schoolchildren. The preparation for the schoolchildren song festivals is kind of a school teaching the young to love folk songs and to sing them. Schoolchildren song festival represents a youthful although somewhat reduced replica of the Song Festivals. Lithuanian emigrants as well as their posterity who cherish Lithuanian culture have also been celebrating the Song Festivals for many years in many countries, such as USA, Canada, and Australia.
The modern Song Festivals consist of three parts: the Day of Dance, the Afternoon of ethnographic and folk music groups, and the Day of Songs, which is the most spectacular of all. The Song Festivals are held every four years and occasionally they are contemporized with some events of national importance. The festivals embrace more than 30,000 performers, including over 400 choirs. The last, the sixteenth Song Festival was held in 2003; the sixth Schoolchildren Song Festival was held in 2005.
After Lithuania regained independence, the geography of the Festival expanded: Lithuanians from 10 to 15 countries come and take part at the Song Festival. Therefore the festival was renamed to the World Lithuanian Song Festival.
Visit Lithuania invites you to join
90th Anniversary Celebration
Lithuanian Song Celebration is an overall national cultural phenomenon and a continual purposeful creative process spiritually equal to ancient Greek Olympic Games.
It’s tradition praises individual’s creative self-expression, vitality of the national culture, love for the homeland and solidarity of its people.