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Christmas 2017 and 2018

Croatians have celebrated Christmas for nearly twelve centuries. Traveling through the land at Christmas is a treat; with each region retaining its own unique traditions.

201725 DecMonChristmas Day
201825 DecTueChristmas Day

Evergreen trees, wreaths and boughs grace most Croatian homes.The food served in homes varies, but Christmas is a time for baking and Croatian Kuglof is just one of the many desserts that weigh down the table, along with dried fruits, nuts and honey, throughout the country on December 24 and 25.

Christmas decorations in the main street of Zagreb. Photo: Romanski,

Christmas decorations in the main street of Zagreb. Photo: Romanski,

Nearly everyone observes Christmas with the traditional wheat, sprouting since St. Lucy’s Day on December 13, and tied with red, white and blue ribbon. Hearty wheat growth means a prosperous year lies ahead; fortunately, it’s okay to use fertilizer. Saint Lucy was a rich woman who became a Christian and gave the poor all her worldly goods.

One of the oldest traditions, the badnjak, lit on Christmas Eve Day and kept burning through Christmas, is dying out. The badnjak, called a Yule log in other parts of the world, commemorates the fire started by the shepherds of Bethlehem to keep Baby Jesus warm. Faithful city dwellers, unable to cut a log from the forest, and without a hearth to burn it, have a symbolic log instead.

In Croatia, everyone celebrates Christmas, even non-believers. Every invader tried, and failed, to destroy the Catholic faith to subjugate the people, so the Church and the Croat national identity are closely tied together. Everyone enjoys the Christmas events that start with the lighting of the first Advent candle. This Christmas, don’t miss:

  • The Zagreb Christmas Market on Ban Jelacic Square
  • Christmas fairytale in the Park Učka – featuring a rare St. Nicholas appearance
  • The boat burning at Komiža on Vis Island, held every December 6th

Christmas in Croatia is spiritual, not commercial, with the day spent at church or with family. Many people reflect on the role the Catholic Church played in Croatian history. Decorations don’t even go up until two weeks before Christmas.

The day for giving gifts is still called St. Nicholas Day. Unlike the West, St. Nicholas was never turned into Santa Claus in Croatia; gifts on Christmas Day are thought to come from Baby Jesus or Grandfather Christmas on December 6. Krampus brings switches to bad little boys and girls on December 6 so their parents will remember to discipline them.

Remember to wish everyone Sretan Bozic!