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Lithuanian State Restoration Day (FEBRUARY 16)

Lithuanian State Restoration Day (16 February)

At the beginning of the 21st century, the Lithuanian festive calendar will include several dates marking the traditions of Lithuanian statehood. 6 July marks the Coronation of Mindaugas of the GDL - State Day. It reminds us of Lithuania's incorporation into the world of Christian Western states. 11 March marks our ability to break free from the grip of the Soviet empire in 1990, and 25 October, the day on which the new Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania was adopted by popular referendum, is a testimony to the legal foundations of the modern state. However, none of the above-mentioned holidays has the same significance in the minds of the Lithuanian people as February 16th, the Day of the Restoration of the State. Throughout the Soviet period, February 16th remained an important factor in the construction of the historical and national identity of Lithuanians, both in Lithuania and abroad. According to surveys conducted by sociologists, almost half of the Lithuanian population still understands the celebration of February 16th as a tradition of statehood. Commenting on the results of the poll, historian A. Kasparavičius said, "Lithuanians are well aware that the foundations of the modern Lithuanian state were laid on 16 February 1918, while on 11 March 1990 we simply freed ourselves from the Soviet occupation and returned to our old ideals of an independent, national state".
All public holidays are usually marked by a large number of official events. This is true for both inter-war festive events, as well as for modern Lithuania and for celebrations of Lithuanian communities around the world. In Lithuania's major cities, alongside the official celebrations of the political or military elite, processions of various organisations and communities have been and continue to be popular. The main accent of such processions is the national flag carried at the front of the procession. The organisations and communities participating in the procession also carry their own flags. Towns and cities are also decorated with the Tricolour on that day. Brass bands were very popular in inter-war Lithuania and no festive procession was without them. Smaller towns and schools also had and hold celebrations on 16 February. One of the most important moments of the 16 February celebrations is the paying of respect to those who died for the freedom of Lithuania. In inter-war Lithuania, the celebration events paid a lot of attention to the volunteers who took part in the independence struggle. They were invited to solemn commemorations. Local riflemen's organisations played an important role in events in towns and cities. Their members always took part in the February 16th celebrations, in festive rallies, and at parties, the rifle bands played. The Soviet authorities tried to eradicate any trace of former Lithuanian statehood and to consolidate the symbols of the communist regime. In occupied Lithuania, it was impossible to publicly commemorate February 16th, but Soviet ideologues did not succeed in erasing the celebration and the values of national statehood from the memory of the Lithuanian population. February 16th continued to be celebrated by Lithuanians all over the world. Lithuanian communities used to organise solemn commemorations with official speeches, concerts by national bands and festive feasts. The Tricolour reappeared in Lithuania with the Lithuanian Revival Movement, and in 1989, the then government succeeded in having February 16th declared a non-working day. In 1990, February 16th was already legalised as Independence Day. And on 25 October of the same year, the Law of the Republic of Lithuania "On Public Holidays" granted February 16th the status of a public holiday - the Day of the Restoration of the Lithuanian State. Today, the commemorations of February 16th intertwine festive traditions created between the wars and those reflecting the present state.

Updated 14 February 2023