Culture, Travel & Sport

Can a Christmas tree send a social message?

A Christmas tree unveiled in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius this week looks nothing like the shiny decorated trees usually associated with the holiday. Wrapped in a giant plastic bag, the tree at the Independent Christmas Town – located at Vilnius railway station – serves as a reminder of the hyper-consumerism that tends to take over the holiday season, encouraging a more local and authentic approach to Christmas instead.

“We wanted to express the idea of excessive consumerism with our Christmas tree, which we have done with a modern art project,” said one of its creators, Dominykas Čečkauskas, who is also behind the famous street mural in Vilnius depicting presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin embracing each other. “We have wrapped the tree in an off-white-inspired plastic bag and attached clinical breathing masks – we would really like to show the world how we perceive problems with the economy of manufactured demand and hype culture.”

Along with the tree, over a dozen pop-ups representing Vilnius’ flourishing street food and craft beer scene, as well as a slew of performance artists, fashion designers, and industrial techno musicians have taken over the Lithuanian Railway Museum and station area.

Local street food pioneers Turgus 2.0, together with Lithuanian Railways, the Municipality of Vilnius, and the city’s development agency Go Vilnius, have combined forces to bring this market to life. The initiative, which will run until January 2, is an experimental Christmas Market aimed at promoting the best of Vilnius’ youth culture, and providing an alternative to the malls and traditional-style Christmas Markets that are commonplace across the world. This Independent Christmas Town also serves to support local artists, electronic musicians, and the best of the city’s art, street-food, and micro brewing scenes.

“The Independent Christmas Town is an initiative that looks to the future instead of past traditions,” continues Čečkauskas. “The festive season has too long been about unreasonable levels of consumerism. This is why we are promoting more conscious Christmas presents by urging visitors to buy unique gifts from local street artists, designers, and second-hand merchants.”

The project has the full support of the Vilnius mayor, Remigijus Šimašius. “The Independent Christmas Town represents the values of liberty, tolerance, and openness that Vilnius is built upon,” he said. “Thanks to this initiative, our city’s most exciting artists will be able to come together and hopefully show other creatives from across the world that Vilnius is open to their talents and that they are welcome during Christmas or any other time of year.”

Photos: Go Vilnius