The best way that you can spend your time in Croatia is during the Christmas holiday. At this time the people and celebrations come into life in Croatia. The locals are extra passionate about the customs, traditions, and celebrations across the country.
The pristine beaches, historical towns, diverse culture, cuisine, and traditions are some of the unique things to enjoy during your travel to Croatia. Depending on the region that you visit, you are sure to enjoy some of the unique aspects of the Croatian culture.
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Without further ado, let’s delve deeper into the Christmas spirit of Croatia!
Christmas traditions in Croatia
Croatia is one of the most religious nations in Europe. It is almost 90% Catholic, therefore the Christmas holiday is one of the most revered times in the country.
During the Christmas period, Croatians will gather in large numbers and celebrate the holiday with their friends and families. The holiday celebrations in Croatia do not begin on the Christmas Eve. However, they usually start early in December and extend throughout the month through January 6th.
It is therefore a perfect location that you can visit because it is a pristine location where you can diversify your experience in the region. Catholic traditions have been embraced in the country for years now.
While there are a few newer elements of the Christmas traditions from the west, Croatia has become one of the most diverse societies in the region.
There are various saints celebrated in the country as well. Let’s learn how they celebrate these saints, which include St. Barbara’s Day, St. Lucia, and St. Nicolas Day.
Further reading: Christmas in Bosnia and Herzegovina
St. Lucia’s Day in Croatia
On St. Lucia’s or St. Barbara’s Day, people will sow their wheat in small containers or plates. This has a very old meaning for Croatian people. Saint Lucy announces the Christmas light, hence, there are twelve days between St. Lucia’s Day and Christmas day.
St. Lucy was a Christian martyr, and she is considered one of the most important figures in Croatia because she represents weavers, tailors, boatmen, farmers, porters, scribes, and blacksmiths. The wheat grain that is planted is a symbol of new life.
Depending on how the seeds will germinate, it is usually a symbol of how the harvest will be on the new year. If the wheat germinates at a higher rate and how tall they will be shows that the harvest for the new year will be plentiful. If the Christmas wheat germinates poorly, then the harvest for the year will be poor as well.
It is important to note that people use Christmas wheat as a symbol or decoration for Christmas. The wheat is put under the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. The Croatians believe that St. Lucia will bring gifts to the house.
Further reading: Christmas in Austria
St. Catherine’s Day in Croatia
Croatia is very diverse and the people highly value their Christmas traditions. On the 25th of November, the country marks St. Catherine’s Day, and it is a time that people celebrate Advent as well.
In the country, you will find a wide array of features such as the laying of an advent wreath made up of evergreen twigs or straws as well as four candles. The wreath plays a critical role in the traditions around the country and it symbolizes endlessness. These candles have unique symbolization as well.
The first candle symbolizes hope, the second symbolizes peace, the third symbolizes joy, and the last one is a symbol of love. In some cases, people add a fifth candle. People put the candle at the center of the wreath, and it is mostly lit on Christmas day.
Further reading: Christmas in Belarus
St. Nicholas Day in Croatia
St. Nicholas Day is celebrated on the 6th of December in Croatia. On the eve of this day, the children will clean their boots or shoes and leave them to dry on the window.
The children hope that St. Nicholas will leave small presents and chocolates in their shoes. In some places, there is a Santa Claus who brings presents as well. Although Santa usually comes on the eve of Christmas, it is believed that the concept of St. Nicholas Day is borrowed from this.
St. Nicholas will leave gifts, chocolates, and sweets to children who have been good throughout the year. For the children who misbehaved during the year, St. Nicholas will leave them twigs.
Further reading: Christmas in Belgium
Christmas Eve in Croatia
In Croatia, on Christmas Eve people will often go and choose a Christmas tree depending on the region. The tree is different, ranging from spruce to fir.
The entire family will participate in the decoration of the Christmas tree and some people in the country choose to decorate the tree on St. Nicholas Day. In most locations, people decorate the Christmas tree with ornaments which are in the shapes of fruits. The local people used candied fruits, in some cases they were covered in gold.
In the modern era, people often decorate Christmas trees with glitter and stars. The Christmas tree is decorated on the 24th of December in many parts of Croatia.
During this period, the apples are often given out as gifts. In some places around the country, it was a custom to throw an apple in a well of water and take it out during the new year. People believe that if the apple is pink and healthy, then the people will be in good health as well.
Further reading: Christmas in Andorra
Christmas customs and traditions in Croatia
It is customary to believe that in different parts of the country, people should bring straws to the house on Christmas Eve. This is a symbol of good produce in the coming year.
In most parts of the country, there is a yule log commonly called badnjak that is brought into the house on Christmas Eve. It is then lit during this period or on Christmas Day.
Since many people do not have a fireplace these days, they bring a little log as a symbol. The fir was traditionally put on the roof of the house or in a room. A branch of an evergreen tree that has been carved into a wreath is brought into the house and usually attached to the beam of the hose.
The greenery during the winter period is a symbol that showcases the transmission of life force to the beautiful natural surroundings.
On Christmas Eve, people usually go for midnight Christmas masses. The masses form a part of the culture in Croatia since many people are Catholics. Many people like to go to these Christmas masses and you can join the locals.
Close family members and friends around the country often celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas together.
Further reading: Christmas in Lithuania
Christmas Eve food in Croatia
Perhaps one of the most diverse countries in the world when it comes to food and cuisine is Croatia. Some of the common foods that are often consumed during this period include potatoes, cod fish, salads, and fritule, which is a doughnut-like pastry common in the country.
Once the family members are done with Christmas decorations, they will then sit and enjoy the meals together. It is a perfect time for bonding between friends and families.
The food in Croatia is diverse because in some places you will find people enjoying other international drinks, cold meats, beer, and spirits.
Christmas day in Croatia
Christmas day begins after the midnight mass, on 25th December. People wish each other Merry Christmas, which is a popular practice in different parts of the country.
During this period, people can often bond with others as they feast, enjoying the meals and drinks prepared during the previous day. It is also a moment when people will share their gifts with their loved ones.
Family breakfast is served early in the day and depending on the region that you are visiting, you will find that some people will attend a short Christmas mass in their local parishes. Christmas Day is a day of relaxation and spending time with your family.
Further reading: Christmas in Iceland
Christmas Day food in Croatia
Christmas Day is an exceptional day when you can enjoy some of the exceptional cuisines that you will only find in Croatia. Since the day is the most anticipated in the region, you are going to see the different meals that are served across the country.
Some of the common traditional meals that you are going to enjoy during this day include goose, duck, roasted turkey, and the most common meal in the region called sarma.
Ideally, sarmas are cabbage rolls that are often filled with minced pork and rice. The cabbage rolls are some of the most common things that you are going to find people consuming in different parts of Croatia.
In some parts of the region, you are going to find people serving homemade pasta, roast suckling pig, mixed vegetables, and beef stew.
The local people in the country consume fritule which is a doughnut-like bread.
In some parts of the country, you will find people consuming makovnjaca which are delicious rolls made from poppy seeds. Friends and family often enjoy the Christmas meals.
Epiphany Day in Croatia
The 6th of January is the day of Epiphany and it often marks the end of the Christmas season in Croatia. People start to take down Christmas decorations in their homes.
It is a perfect time to remove the Christmas trees as well. Depending on the region you visit, you will see some young boys singing Christmas carols as they remove the stars from the Christmas trees. It is a unique time for the Christmas period to come to an end and people get back to their regular activities on the 7th.