Straw gardens represent one of the Lithuanian traditional art forms. Their volume decorations of precise geometric forms carry aesthetic and sacral functions. The most usual forms are of four-side pyramid and other derivative intrinsic structures as well as stars and spheres. The octahedron makes the most common shape, which is, double pyramids whose bases are squares of the same perimeters and whose tops face upwards and downwards. The gardens are decorated with traditional elements symbolising life, fertility and wellbeing. The straw gardens represent an important part of the Lithuanian and Baltic cultural heritage reflecting the old worldview, therefore, they are compared to the World Tree – the universal symbol of harmonious universe: the vertical axis represents the model of the Heavens–the Earth–the Underground or the Past–the Present– the Future, and the horizontal axis stands for the cardinal points.
Straw gardens, in the past also called candlestick, spider, the sky or heaven, were made all around Lithuania (for the longest in Aukštaitija), hung above cradles, wedding tables, used to decorate home before Christmas Eve or Easter hoping that harmony would prevail at home, with the world and in personal life.
The gardens of various techniques are also made in Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Finland and Sweden. Nowadays the gardens are usually used as decorations and hung in various home places. A part of people still associates the gardens with family and calendar festivities. A lot of newlywed couples order wedding gardens or decorate their party venues with rented gardens, some buy the pieces for their wedding anniversaries or christenings.
Nowadays, more and more garden makers appear – they either learn it from their parents or attend workshops. The artisans maintain a positive thinking or the best wishing approach when binding, or, as they say, when growing the gardens. It strengthens a sense of community and trust.
A garden by Marija Liugienė
Photograph by Artūras Moisiejenka, 2015
Submitted by Vilnius Ethnic Culture Centre, 2017