Chicago is known for being a city of neighborhoods. With more than 200 unique neighborhoods representing more than 100 countries, there’s a little something for everyone. And whatever your heritage, there is an event in Chicago to celebrate it.
Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of celebrating my Lithuanian roots at Navy Pier’s Celebrate Lithuanian Independence presented in partnership with the Consulate General of Lithuania. The event was full of dance, folk music, art, food and amber. Lots of amber. Everywhere you looked attendees were proudly wearing this highly treasured national gem found on the Baltic Sea shores.
My great-grandmother, Zuzana Maczis, was only 16-years-old when she made the long trek to the United States. She would eventually find her way to Chicago’s Marquette Park neighborhood where generations would establish their Lithuanian-American roots.
Chicago’s Marquette Park neighborhood is also the site of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, which is the largest repository of Lithuanian cultural artifacts outside of Lithuania. In fact, Mr. Balzekas himself was at Navy Pier to celebrate Lithuanian’s Independence and perpetuate Lithuanian culture for generations to come. He was proud to hear that my mother and I made the trip to the Motherland last spring to celebrate Easter with our relatives.
I had a very special moment when I found a Lithuanian cook book for sale that my great-grandmother contributed to many years ago.
Her recipe for cabbage meat pie, is one of many authentic dishes that Lithuanian-American families continue to make.
After watching lively dance performances and indulging in Lithuanian sausage, kugelis (a potato and bacon dish) and sauerkraut, I walked away feeling even more proud of the country my family called home.
The Neighborhoods of the World series is free and continues through April 15, 2012 at Navy Pier. Upcoming events include:
March 18: Celebrate Mexico Presented in partnership with the Consulate General of Mexico and the Mexico Tourism Board
March 25: Bell’Italia Presented in partnership with the Italian Cultural Institute and the Consulate General of Italy
April 1: Philippine Fest Chicago (Piyesta Pinoy sa Chicago) Presented in partnership with the Consulate General of the Philippines and the Philippine American Cultural Foundation
April 8: Africa in Chicago Presented in partnership with Africa International House
April 15: Germania on the Pier Presented in partnership with DANK-Haus German American Cultural Center and the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce