Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture

See traditional Lithuanian straw ornaments year round at the Balzekas Museum
  • BALZEKAS MUSEUM OF LITHUANIAN CULTURE

  • 6500 S. PULASKI ROAD
    CHICAGO, IL 60629
  • TEL.: 773.582.6500
  • FAX:773.582.5133
  • info@balzekasmuseum.org
  • Open 10 AM - 4 PM daily
  • Except Christmas, Easter &
    New Year's Day
  • Directions

 

Sunday, November 22 @ 10 AM

Lithuanian Straw Christmas Ornament Workshop


straw_lantern_ornament
Traditionally made from threaded natural wheat or rye straw, Lithuanian Christmas ornaments are delicate and often elaborate pendants, whose geometric designs (such as, stars, snowflakes, and angels) are inspired by natural, celestial or religious motifs.

A Twist on a Tradition

The unique white paper or plastic straw ornaments so typical of Lithuanian Christmas trees today, have an interesting origin. Juze Dauzvardis, the wife of Petras Dauzvardis, Consul General of Lithuania in Chicago (1961-71), was asked to decorate a Christmas tree with Lithuanian ornaments as part of an international Christmas tree exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Wanting to distinguish the Lithuanian tree from all others, Juze Dauzvardis, with the help of Sisters of St. Casimir, came up with the idea to use ornaments made of white paper drinking straws. The Lithuanian Christmas tree with its distinctive white ornaments became a great hit at the exhibition and drinking straw Christmas tree ornaments became a popular modern and urban twist on an old Lithuanian tradition, particularly because natural straw is more difficult to procure for American city dwellers than it is on the Lithuanian homestead.

The Museum's Annual Straw Ornament Making Workshop


Participants at the Nov. 22, 2012, Straw Ornament Workshop at the Museum

Lithuanian Straw Ornament workshops are a long-standing tradition at the Museum. Usually held in November or early December, this popular workshop is lead by Lithuanian artisans who instruct participants on the art of making these delicate decorations and continues to attract a large number of participants. Assembling and threading the intricate designs is a hands-on lesson in artistry and geometry that can be appealing and challenging to children and adults alike. For inspiration, workshop participants are also invited to tour the Museum's Lithuanian Christmas tree exhibit. Specially selected and treated packaged natural straws are also available for purchase through the Museum's online Gift Shop.

Workshop Registration:

Learn how to make your own Lithuanian Christmas tree ornaments from white plastic drinking straws made into shapes of stars, the sun snowflakes, bells and angels. Traditionally, the ornaments were made from natural straw. Participants may view the Museum's Christmas tree for inspiration and ideas.

Experienced folk artist Vaida Lagoneckytė will instruct the class in English. Participants are asked to bring their own scissors, a pencil and a ruler. All other supplies (straws, needle, thread and instructions sheet) will be provided at the workshop. Extra supplies for work at home will be available in the Gift Shop.

  • When: Date Sunday, November 22 @ 10 a.m.
  • Where: Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, 6500 S. Pulaski Rd., Chicago 60629 Directions
  • Fee: $15 | Museum members $12 | Children 12 and under - $6
    Fee includes supplies (straws, needle, thread and instructions sheet); free admission to the Museum; and light refreshments


Free parking is available in the back of the Museum.
For more information and registration, please call the Museum at 773-582-6500.

The Museum is open 7 days a week, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

This project is partially supported by Grants from the Illinois Arts Council, City Arts Program 3, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, the ECPC.

Lithuanian Christmas ornaments on display around Chicago 


Left Photo: Balzekas Museum volunteer Mary Krauchunas poses with an official next to the Lithuanian Christmas tree she helped decorate at Navy Pier's "Winter Wonderfest". Right Photo: Mary Krauchunas puts the finishing touches on a Lithuanian tree at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Photos by Rita Janz.

Since it was established in 1966, Balzekas Museum volunteers and staff have painstakingly decorated Christmas trees with traditional straw ornaments at the Museum and at other Chicago landmarks. The trees showcase Lithuanian holiday traditions and folk-arts to the general public. For several years, two dedicated individuals have devoted considerable time and effort to ensure Lithuanian trees are on display at Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports and Navy Pier: Women's Guild Director, Museum volunteer extraordinaire, and the 2005 Award of Excellence recipient, Mary Krauchunas, and the Museum's Program Director, Rita Janz. Through their efforts, Lithuanian Christmas ornaments will be seen and admired by thousands of visitors to these popular city sites.

Read more about our Easter Egg Etching workshop and the Mardi Gras "Užgavėnės" Mask Making workshop.

This event is partially supported by Grants from the Illinois Arts Council, City Arts Program 3 City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, and the ECPC.

A Twist on a Tradition

The unique straw ornaments, so typical of Lithuanian Christmas trees today, have an interesting origin. Josephine Dauzvardis, the wife of Petras Dauzvardis, Consul General of Lithuania in Chicago (1961-71), was asked to decorate a Christmas tree with Lithuanian ornaments as part of an international Christmas tree exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Wanting to distinguish the Lithuanian tree from all others, Mrs. Dauzvardis, with the help of Sisters of St. Casimir, came up with the idea to use ornaments made of white paper drinking straws, instead of the more fragile, natural straw ones traditionally used in Lithuania. The Lithuanian Christmas tree with its distinctive white ornaments became a great hit at the exhibition and the ornaments became a distinctively American twist on a Lithuanian tradition.

Lithuanian Christmas Tree at O'Hare Airport
A Museum Christmas greeting featuring a Christmas tree decorated in traditional Lithuanian straw ornaments at O'Hare International Airport

The Lithuanian Christmas trees, decorated with straw ornaments, have been admired by the public for many years at the Museum of Science and Industry, Midway and O’Hare Airports, and Navy Pier. Each year Museum volunteers and/or staff members set out to various Chicago locations to decorate, then subsequently remove ornaments from publicly displayed trees. Read more ...