Traditional Christmas customs in Croatia

The pictures we associate with the celebration of Christmas - decorating pine trees, Christmas songs, family lunch and exchanging gifts, are part of the Croatian tradition. Although today's customs are somewhat more modernized, their essential part remains the same as time passes.

Preparations for Christmas begin at the beginning of Advent, more precisely 4 weeks before Christmas. During this period, religious people go to dawn Mass every day. By cleaning their boots, children prepare for St. Nicholas' Day, which is celebrated on December 6th. If they were good, St. Nicholas will leave them a gift in a boot. The naughty children in the boot will find in their boot a golden stick from Krampus.

Seven days later, on the day of St. Lucy, people sow Christmas wheat. It is believed that for those whose wheat is lusher, greener and taller, the following year will be full of abundance. In some parts of Croatia, wheat is sown on St. Barbara, December 4, also known as "Little Christmas".

The preparation of cakes and decorating the house for Christmas traditionally begins on December 21, on the day of St. Thomas. On Christmas Eve, December 24, the final preparations are made in the household, because traditionally nothing is allowed to be done on Christmas. The symbol of Christmas - the Christmas tree is decorated on Christmas Eve. Traditional decorations are fruits like apples and plums, decorations made of paper, candles and pieces of cotton wool or paper. Gilded walnuts and hazelnuts adorned the trees of wealthier households. Under the Christmas tree, a manger is placed as a symbol of the birth of Jesus, and in some parts of Croatia, straw is brought into the home. Fish dishes are served on the holiday table on Christmas Eve, and most often it is cod prepared in one of several ways, such as "white" or "red". At the end of the day, we go to a Midnight Mass, at which Christmas is celebrated. It is accompanied by traditional songs such as "Radujte se narodi" and "Silent night“.

Christmas is celebrated in the family circle by going to Mass and having a joint Christmas lunch. The holiday table is rich and, depending on the area, there are roasts, sarma, hladetina, kulen, prosciutto, and from the cakes those made of walnuts, poppy seeds, carob, gingerbread .... When they would come to visit the girl's family, the young men would bring božićnica, a decorated apple that they would give to the chosen one as a gift.

Wishing a merry Christmas in Dalmatia was accompanied by the custom of caroling. Carolers, most often a group of men, wished Christmas by singing from house to house, while the hosts would treat them to various sweets.