Yolo Solo Travel

CHRISTMAS IN CROATIA

I write this on Christmas Eve from Sydney, Australia.  It is going to be another scorcher today with temperatures getting into the mid/high thirties.  This is quite a contrast to where I was this time last year in Zagreb, Croatia where temperatures were below zero.  Zagreb is the capital city of Croatia and has been given the title of ‘Best Christmas Market in Europe’ for a third year in a row!

Christmas in Croatia

Christmas is really something special in Croatia.  About 85 percent of the population is Catholic so this time of year is big deal and it happens over a whole month, not just one day.  I spent three months living in Croatia from early November to late January so I got to see and experience the whole festive season which is better known as Advent.

Christmas in Croatia

I was lucky enough to be living with a family of three (mum, dad and 13 year old daughter) in Zagreb, so I was able to share all the traditions with them.  Although you see decorations and other signs that Christmas is coming at the end of November it all really kicks off on the 6th of December with Saint Nicholas Day (Sveti Nikola).  Traditionally, the day before children clean their shoes/boots and leave them in the window.  They hope that St Nicholas will leave them chocolates and small presents in their boot. If children have been naughty, Krampus (a big monster with horns who sometimes travels with St Nicholas) leaves them golden twigs to remind them to behave.  I got my boot (stocking) with twigs and chocolate.  Maybe I had been naughty and nice!

Christmas in Croatia

A week later, on the 13th of December, was Saint Lucia’s Day (Sveti Lucija) which is when people often plant wheat seeds on small dishes. The grassy sprouts that grow (called Christmas wheat) are put underneath the Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve.  My family took part in this practice which is not something I have ever heard of or seen before.

Christmas Trees are normally put up and decorated on Christmas Eve but some people put them up and decorate them on St Nicholas’s Day.  Presents are exchanged on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  For my Croatian family and I we celebrated on Christmas Eve with extended family at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. We had a delicious feast!  There was rakija (local alcohol), traditional dishes like sarma (cabbage rolls filled with minced pork meat) and my favourite dish was an octopus salad with this divine sauce that Grandpa had made, I have the recipe somewhere.  Grandpa also made the yummiest chocolate cake, there were lots of sweet treats to be enjoyed but Grandpa’s cake was the best.

Christmas in Croatia

Christmas in Croatia

After dinner we exchanged gifts.  Croatia hasn’t been overcome by commercialism, therefore gift giving is more traditional and children are not spoilt with loads of presents under the tree.  It really is quite special as it feels more like it should be.  Mass is also an important part of the evening and although we didn’t stay up for Midnight Mass we did attend Mass after our evening festivities, around 9pm if I remember right.  This is the first time I have even attended a Catholic Mass and this one was all in Croatian so I didn’t understand a word but it was pretty special to be there.  The Advent season ends on the 6th of January with Epiphany which is the celebration of the wise men who came to visit Jesus after he was born.  On this day Christmas trees are taken down and final Advent celebrations come to an end.  A whole long month of celebrations!Christmas in Croatia

As they would say in Croatia, Sretan Božić! May your festive season be filled with love, laughter and loads of good food.  Merry Christmas to you all!

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Never forget You Only Live Once, Karllie 🙂

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