Easter Customs in Croatia
How is Easter Celebrated in Croatia?
After giving up a vice or a bad habit of their choice for Lent for forty days, finally, Croatians emerge as changed people and celebrate Easter. It's a festive day when families gather to celebrate, eat, drink, and enjoy all the perks the beautiful company, wine, and olive oil can bring.
Easter is traditionally a Christian holiday, but its tradition is a blend of ancient influences from worldwide with one common theme - a new life cycle. Since Croatia is primarily a Roman Catholic country, Easter is arguably the holiest day of the year, and each region of the country has different Easter customs and rituals.
Visiting Croatia in March or April has many advantages. If the opportunity comes during the Easter period, you can enjoy the great weather and a traditional Easter lunch! Croatians take Easter very seriously, just like we take our olive oil. This dedication leads to many special events, processions, and traditions. To explain all of them would be impossible, but the following are some of the most important Easter traditions in Croatia.
The Holy Week in Croatia
The week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday is The Holy Week. During this time, different ceremonies and processions take place every evening.
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday. The custom is to carry a palm branch for good luck, but since palm branches are not so common in Croatia and not everyone can use them, rosemary or olive branches are also acceptable.
The people take these branches to church for a blessing and hang them in the house afterward. People from the Dalmatian region also wash their faces with flower petals to smell like spring and fresh flowers.
Croatians revive a tradition that evokes fond memories of some bygone times during the spring holidays, but we also refresh the soul, body, and home after the winter months. Whether Croatians attach religious significance to it or simply catch up with nature, these holidays herald the arrival of nicer and warmer days.
Cleaning up The House
During Holy Week, the custom of tidying up and cleaning the house and going to church to confession has been cherished since ancient times to symbolically purify the soul.
In the past, during Holy Week, church bells did not ring in most rural parts of Croatia, only household chores were done, and no people went to the fields. In Zagorje at that time, there was a cheerful and lively atmosphere while people were painting Easter eggs and houses.
Burning "Vuzmenice" in The North
After waking up at dawn, people in some parts of North Croatia lit the so-called "vuzmenka," an Easter bonfire made of pine trees or pyramids made of logs.
Vuze" means "Users" (Easter) in this part of Croatia.
In the evening, people gather in front of the church to light a fire with rocks (no matches or lighters allowed), and the villagers then compete to light the biggest and most beautiful fire. People sing Easter songs and hang out all night.
Music in The South
In Dalmatia, people play music with an instrument called "čegrtaljke" or "klepetaljke." The Čegrtaljka is a wooden board with a small wheel connected to metal teeth and percussion. This mechanism allows the čegrtaljka to produce a sound when it's mounted on the ground or on another straight surface. It's intense.
Easter Food Traditions in Croatia
With all the variety of customs during Holy Week, everyone has a standard fast and preparation of meat and fish specialties. On Good Friday, watermelons, gilthead sea bream, hake, octopus, and squid are prepared in Dalmatia, along with the inevitable vegetables and boiled potatoes. Chickpea maneštra and white cod have been served in Istria since ancient times. Those who once did not have fish prepared cabbage dishes. Like many holidays in our country, this spring holiday is the perfect setup for the after feast naps and a few loose buttons.
The consecration of food is one of the oldest folk and church traditions that is still characteristic of the celebration of Easter. On Holy Saturday or early Easter morning, believers bring food to the church for the blessing to share with their family later.
There is, of course, the custom of giving Easter eggs as gifts to close friends and family since they are a symbol of life. Many egg-decorating techniques have been passed down from generation to generation, and Easter eggs are still often made in schools as small souvenirs. Easter eggs are decorated with various methods, and in the past natural colors were used for coloring. The custom still widely present in all parts of Croatia, with the blessing of food is the coloring of eggs.
Black Easter eggs are characteristic of the Međimurje region and were obtained from elderberries, mulberries, or soot. The most common was red, which was obtained from the peel of red onions, beets, or chicory. Some decorated eggs by cooking them with flower petals, and in Dubrovnik, Easter eggs were decorated with wax. Older generations would recommend spinach, leeks, or nettles for green, and dark brown will be obtained from oak bark for those who would like to try natural colors. For a unique Easter egg shine, you can use bacon!
Beating eggs is a traditional Easter custom. One person challenges another to "fight," and the winner is the one whose egg is less damaged. The "beating" of the colored eggs is undoubtedly the most common custom when celebrating Easter in Croatia.
Easter Food in Croatia
Traditionally, people tend to avoid meat on Good Friday. On the coast, people prepare sea fish such as cod. In continental Croatia, they usually prepare freshwater fish such as carp.
On Easter Day, people eat cooked ham, eggs, spring onions, cottage cheese, and radishes in most Croatian cities. For every meal, there is the added beauty of natural olive oil.
In Slavonia, they love the French salad, dedicated bread, and kulen, the celebrity of Slavonian cuisine.
Croatians in Zagorje tend to bake traditional bread mixed with the water in which the ham is cooked. People love turkey and "mlinci" for the main course, and we all know that nothing goes without Zagorje štruklji.
Istrians will serve prosciutto with egg, and those who follow the tradition will prepare sauerkraut with meat and fuži.
You will celebrate with roasted lamb with spring onions and red wine if you go to the southern parts!
For dessert, Croatians love traditional cakes such as sirnica, walnut roll, or rožata.
Croatian Easter Dessert Recipes
5-6 tablespoons sugar (for caramel)
1-2 tablespoons of water
5 tablespoons sugar (for mixture)
A bit of salt
Rum, vanilla aroma, orange peel (optional)
0.5 L of milk
In a bowl with a thicker bottom, melt 5-6 tablespoons of sugar with 1-2 tablespoons of water. When it is melted (light brown in color), use it to coat the pot in which the rožata will be baked.
Mix the eggs, 5 tablespoons of sugar, a little salt, rum, vanilla flavor, orange peel, and milk.
Pour the mixture into a mold (or small ramekins) coated with sugar and put in an oven preheated to 180°C.
Bake for 45 minutes (put the ramekins or the bowl in a fireproof dish, deeper baking sheet, etc. and fill the tin with water half surrounded by water).
When the crust is light brown, the Rožata is done!
500 g flour
1 packet of powder yeast
250 ml of lukewarm milk
A pinch of salt
60 g of sugar
1 lemon zest
100 g butter
Walnut Filling Ingredients
500 g ground walnuts
150 g sugar
200 ml of milk
A little lemon zest
A little rum
1 vanilla sugar
Optional pinch of cinnamon powder
100 g of raisins as desired
Melt the yeast in a little lukewarm milk with 1 teaspoon of sugar and flour. Leave it to rise at room temperature.
Add flour, sugar, eggs, salt, grated lemon zest, and yeast from step 1. In a separate cup, melt butter with lukewarm milk. Knead a smooth dough with lukewarm milk in which butter has been melted. Make the dough by hand, cover, and leave to rise.
Roll out the risen dough on a floured surface and divide it into three equal parts.
Roll each into a rectangle the length of the pan, not too thin as the filling will be hard to spread, about 1 cm thick. The dough should be even and preferably rolled out into as regular a rectangle as possible. Coat with a third of the filling and, if desired, sprinkle with raisins that have been briefly soaked in hot water, drained and dried, and rolled. Raisins should not be mixed into the filling because then the filling is difficult to spread.
Roll out the loaves and transfer them to a greased pan (37x22 cm), coat the sides (so that they do not stick) with oil or melted butter, and leave them covered in a warm place to rise.
When the crusts have grown nicely, coat them with a beaten egg, place them in an oven preheated to 200 ° C (392 F), and bake for 10 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 170 ° C (338 F) and bake for another 30 minutes. Cover it with baking paper if the loaf top coat gets too dark.
Cover the roll with a cloth and cool.
When cool, wrap each walnut in saran wrap to keep it from drying out.
Walnut Filling Instructions
Mix walnuts with sugar and vanilla sugar and pour over 150 ml of boiling milk. Mix well and cool. Add a little rum and grated lemon zest to the rest of the cold milk and cinnamon as desired.
Make sure that the filling is not dry because the baked crust will separate from it and not be too thin because the crust and the filling will mix (melt).
If you wish, you can replace some sugar with honey.
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