Sodai straw garden making in Lithuania


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Inscribed in 2023 (18.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Vilnius Ethnic Culture Centre, 2022

Sodai straw gardens are hanging ornaments made from the stalks of grains. This practice involves the cultivation of grain (typically rye), the treatment of straw and the creation of geometric structures of varying sizes. The structures are then decorated with details symbolizing fertility and prosperity. Sodai gardens are believed to reflect the pattern of the universe and are associated with well-being and spirituality. They are hung over the cradles of babies and over a wedding or family table to wish happiness to newborns, fertility to newlyweds or harmony to the family. Lithuanian homes are also frequently decorated with sodai gardens for Easter and Christmas. Some sodai-making families have been practising the tradition for generations. Although most of the practitioners are women, workshops exist and are open to people of all ages and genders. The practice is passed on informally within families or during events such as festivals, exhibitions, conferences and summer camps. An integral part of traditional wooden home interiors, sodai gardens are viewed as spiritual gifts. They provide a sense of shared cultural heritage and continuity to the practising communities while strengthening communal partnerships, intergenerational bonds and cultural diversity.