Croatian Christian Traditions - a bit of History
With such a long history behind them, it is no wonder Christian traditions in Croatia are so strong. Starting from the New Testament we see the evidence of Saint Paul's instructing Saint Titus- a missionary, who lived in Dalmatia about preaching Christianity. Another possible mention of Croatia in the Sacred Scriptures is present in the Letter to the Romans.
In VII century AD, When most of the actual Croats' ascendants arrived in these provinces many started interacting with Christians and began to get baptized. In the year 641, a Dalmatian Roman Catholic Pope born in Zadar, John IV, was the one that started formal relationships with the Catholics of actual Croatia by sending a mission led by Abbot Martin. During the next two centuries, most people were baptized and adopted Roman Catholicism in a non-violent way.
Almost 90 % of Croatia's actual population is Catholic and has particular and lovely traditions. Mostly from the early days of Christianism but enriched with ancestral Folk customs, making the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ the most important festivity of the country.
Christmas in Croatia
Christmas in Croatia is a sacred time dedicated to family reunions, worship, prayers for the well-being of all loved ones and good wishes. It takes many days of preparation in which all members of families and communities get involved. Four Sundays before Christmas the Church marks the Time of Advent and the “countdown” for the 25th of December begins.
December 6th marks the commemoration of St. Nicholas - a special day for children because it is the time to start receiving gifts! Children clean their boots and leave them near the windows expecting presents. The ones that had behaved well during the year, mainly get candies or small presents but with St. Nicholas also comes an ugly creature, named Krampus, that leaves sticks for naughty children. On the 6th of January, the Three Holy Kings Days, children are divided into groups of three and go around town giving gifts. That day is known as the end of Christmas time, the trees go down, people attend Mass and after, the Priests visit the houses of their communities to bless them.
Croatian Unique Christmas Customs
- The Advent wreath is a circle made of evergreen branches, and cone pines that families assemble, add four candles to be lit one by one on every Sunday of Advent until the fifth Sunday - Christmas day.
Sowing wheat (sijanje pšenice). This very old tradition comes from times when the country mainly depended on agriculture, and it is conserved up to nowadays to implore a good harvest. Wheat is a symbol of fertility, new life, and prosperity. On December 13th, St. Lucy’s Day (Sveta Lucija), they are planted in a bowl and put under the Christmas tree. When the wheat grows well, it's taken as a good sign for the coming year!
- On Badnjak or Christmas Eve in some areas of the country, the father of the family brings a previously prepared log into the house and puts it in the fireplace, the intention is to keep it burning all day and night until Christmas day. Members of the family take turns to keep the log burning. It is full of symbolism - fire means the light that Jesus brought to the world, the wood is the sign of the cross in which our Savior gives his life for our redemption, and the ashes represent the death that brings new life.
- Christmas trees were adopted after the late XIX century, before this children mainly decorated houses with fruits and paper ornaments.
- December the 26th, on St. Stevens day, families visit their relatives and friends, to share the Christmas spirit.
- Most cities have Christmas markets, but a famous one is the Zagreb Christmas Market. You will find it in the Old Town square with music, Christmas lights and full of spectacular Christmas decorations. You can buy ceramics, hats, ornaments, souvenirs and the country's best products.
- Croatians love to drink mulled wine for Christmas!
Christmas Traditional Food
Since Christmas Eve is a fasting day, only small portions of food are eaten but when Christmas day arrives there are plenty and special dishes served. Often piglets, pork or turkey
Although the culinary parts of Croatia differ a lot, similar dishes are prepared for Christmas in almost all regions. Christmas Eve is a fasting day so people mostly make fish dishes. On the coast, they prefer cod, in Slavonia fish paprikash, and in and around Zagreb squid or seafood risotto. Christmas day is all about meat - lamb, turkey, duck or veal. Zagreb and surrounding areas enjoy turkey or chicken, Slavonians prefer a pig, while Istra and Dalmatia mostly go with veal. Of course, there is always the local wine and delicious delicacies, like French Salad, and the famous fritule.
New Year Celebration in Croatia
New year in Croatia is celebrated like in most countries in the world. With the last-minute countdown, the champagne, cider or other spirits, and wonderful fireworks. With the common belief that the way you finish the old year, and the new year will be similar, for example, if you end the year running not to be late, in the new year you will be running all the time.
The beauty of New Year's eve in Croatia is the kindness of its people, the mild climate, the stunning and varied sightseeing and the amazing diversity of culinary attractions.
Apart from that, a very special and charming tradition that was added in 2000 draws travellers from all over Croatia and neighbouring nations. It all occurred. at Fuzine, a popular tourist destination located 730 meters above sea level in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County. Many people had decided to start having two parties: one at noon to salute the end of the previous year, eat regionally-spiced sausages, dance, add colour with confetti, and the other - a “regular” new year’s eve party. This quickly gained popularity and is today regarded as one of the customary holidays. Each year, it draws more than 10,000 visitors.
"Heralding" is another tradition on various Croatian islands, including Vis and Korcula. The little ones make their way to sing "carols," songs intended to express wishes for a happy new year in exchange for candy! So if you’re looking for a place to go - Croatia is an excellent destination to visit over the Christmas and New Year holidays!
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