Back 2020.07.07

Tradition Accepts Challenge of Social Distancing: Globally, Lithuanians Unite to Sing National Anthem while Keeping Distance with Stretched-Out Flag

Lithuanians found a creative social distancing solution for their annual global singing of the national anthem. As every year, Lithuanians around the world came together to sing their anthem on the Day of State, July 6th. But this year, the singers kept the distance with the stretched-out flag for their safety.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, on July 6th Lithuanians around the world gathered in squares, parks, their own backyards or even at home to sing the national anthem at 9 p.m. sharp local time to mark the Day of Statehood.

The global event requires considerable effort to organize and coordinate. This year, with social distancing requirements added, the challenge was even greater. But the organizers have found a creative and symbolic solution: people sang while keeping the distance by stretching-out a national  flag.

“To organize such an event this year required a lot of creativity,” said Dalius Abaris, the director of the central stage in Vilnius. “We needed to find a way to keep the safety requirements and still create a sense of unity, the feeling of coming together. Thinking of solutions, we discovered that the length of the stretched flag was around 2 metres. The flag makes the distance symbolic and still it perfectly corresponds with the social distancing recommendations by the World Health Organization.”

Thousands of Lithuanians and their friends around the world joined the global choir – adapting to different regulations around the world.

To stress solidarity with the world still suffering from the pandemic, the singing of the Lithuanian national anthem  was followed by the national anthem of the country in which the singers reside. In some countries, like the UK, where the COVID-19 risk remains high, people gathered in smaller groups or joined the singing online. Virtual singing was organized in South Africa and Ireland. Lithuanians from Australia, Japan, China, India and the United Arab Emirates joined in individually.

“As never before the world needs to believe in the power of unity and solidarity,” said Dalia Henke, the chairwoman of the Lithuanian Word Community. “As the COVID-19 pandemic gathered speed, the Lithuanian communities around the world demonstrated their solidarity. We came together to help take care of the seniors, helped Lithuanians stuck abroad to come home, and provided financial support for Lithuanian doctors. The singing of the national anthem this year is an opportunity to thank each other and spread our unity and solidarity beyond our communities into the world at large.”

Singing as the expression of unity has strong historical roots in Lithuania and is an important part of its cultural tradition. In the end of the 20th century it culminated with the so-called “Singing Revolution” – the organization of massive peaceful resistance to Soviet regime that resulted in the restoration of Lithuanian independence in 1990. Over time the tradition that celebrated resilience, now grew to celebrate the spirit of collaboration and togetherness.

The singing of the national anthem on July 6 was first initiated in 2009. That year, the yacht “Ambersail” took a trip around the world and the seafarers invited the Lithuanians around the world to celebrate the Statehood Day together.

Lithuanian Statehood Day is celebrated on July 6th – the day of coronation of the first Lithuanian ruler King Mindaugas. He is known as the leader who united the ancient tribes living in the Lithuanian territory and established the Lithuanian State. With the rise of the anthem-singing tradition, this day is also commemorated as the Day of the National Anthem.