Nowadays being a member of a folk band is no longer passe. Wearing regional clothing is fashionable, and folk patterns are a part of the high fashion world. Moreover, moving into a house away from the urban hustle and bustle and spending vacation time away from the city has become very trendy.
Some regionalisms, neglected for years, are experiencing a big comeback. Around Europe, many festivals and other events, as well as educational centers and museums promoting the ‘small cultures’, profit from the recent vogue for folklore.
Prague Folklore Days
In the capital of the Czech Republic in the heart of Central Europe the biggest event in this part of the continent is organized on a yearly basis. Prague Folklore Days bring together singing and dancing bands, marching groups, soldiers in historic uniforms, and many other folklore ensembles, as well as thousands of fans of European folklore.
Performances take place on outdoor stages located in the historic center of the city: the Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, and Republic Square. The culmination of the festival is the march of all participating groups through the city. The event is a great opportunity to get to know folklore traditions from all countries of the continent and admire the richness and diversity of Europe’s regional cultures.
Saint Casimir’s Fair in Vilnius
With a great tradition reaching back to the beginning of the 17th century, Saint Casimir’s Fair is one of the most interesting annual folk fairs in Europe. Every year, on the Sunday that is nearest to March 4th (which is the anniversary of Saint Casimir’s death) folk artists and craftsmen present their works in the markets and streets of the Lithuanian capital. Today, the fair is also a festival as it features music, dance, and theater performances.
Tens of thousands of visitors from Lithuania and neighbor countries come to Vilnius, attracted by the amazing hand-made jewelry and clothing, delicious traditional food, and the signature product of the fair: Casimir’s Heart, a heart-shaped honey cookie that people buy for their loved ones.
Lviv’s Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life
In Lviv, a charming city, rich in history, that is often referred to as the capital of Ukraine’s folkloric west, there is a Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life. It is situated in the castle’s beautiful garden – Shevchenkivskyi Hai – and is one of the biggest European open-air museums.
Although it was established just 45 years ago, it presents and preserves wooden architectural objects from the 18th and 19th centuries. Authentic buildings and almost 22 thousand exhibits give a great picture of the daily life of the inhabitants of Ukrainian villages. The Museum is visited by 150 thousand people yearly and is also one of the favorite spots for locals, who can also take part in workshops about wood carving, doll making, and other traditional crafts.
Folk on the boat
Finns love all things “folk” and they have found a unique way to celebrate it – on a boat. Folklandia Cruise is the biggest folklore winter event in Finland with a 20-year-old tradition presenting folk music and dances from all around Europe. The last edition featured performers from Belgium, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Slovakia, Estonia, and Finland. The festival enjoys a great popularity – the tickets are always sold out one year ahead!
The cruise departs on an early January morning from Helsinki and travels to Tallin and back. Folklandia is a 75-hour-long boat adventure on the Baltic accompanied by over one hundred line-ups performing for an audience of 2500 festival guests.
Jewel of Polish Pomerania: Kashubia
One of the best examples of reviving regionalisms in Europe is the Polish Kashubian culture. Kashubia is a region stretching in a south-east direction from the biggest city of the Polish Pomeranian Voivodeship, Gdańsk. It is known for beautiful landscapes and traditional villages, as well as a lack of industrial sites. According to legend, the region was created by giants who formed numerous hills and lakes with their feet.
The people of Kashubia, the Kashubians, have their own, unique language that is nowadays even taught at schools in the region. The culture of the Kashubians is becoming increasingly popular, not only among locals but also among tourists, who come from near and far.
Each year in a different town, the summer Reunion of Kashubians (Zjazd Kaszubów) is organized. It is a great occasion to get familiar with Kashubian traditions, crafts, art, and food. Local groups present their music, dances, and colorful clothes.
There are also places that can be visited throughout the year, such as the museum and the educational center located in the idyllic village of Szymbark. Visitors can learn there a lot about the traditions of the region, see replicas of a noble mansion, a wooden church, or bread ovens typical of the area.
Get on board!
The ‘small motherlands’ are becoming more and more important parts of national and continental culture. They are the roots that have to be cherished and cared for. Recently, pop culture has been adopting folk motifs, for example in music (such as in the Balkan ‘turbofolk’ genre) and fashion (the folk-patterned dresses which are a recent trend). It is great that traditions are making their way into pop culture. However, it is important to remember their origins so that they do not become shallow and meaningless.