Christmas customs and Christmas table in Croatia

One of the most beautiful Christmas customs is sharing with those who do not have a lavish holiday table.

Even though the Christmas trees come to us as an ancient custom, actually the trees have been decorated since the second half of the 19th century, while the same tradition in most of Europe has existed since the 16th century. The first Christmas trees were decorated with fruit, apples, dried plums, gilt nuts, or hazelnuts.

There were many other Christmas customs before tree decoration…

In Slavonia, kids used to sing under the table for more eggs in the house in the next year, and later they would go to the Midnight Mass. The family would sing and visit friend’s houses and drink some brandy. In Lika, hay was brought into the house and it was used to cover the main rooms. Such “carpet” remained until the feast of the Holy Three Kings. Similar customs existed in other rural areas of Croatia. In Istria, a stump was burned until the feast of the Holy Three Kings, and flames showed how the next year would look like. Ash shards were later used to spread the garden as a cure against caterpillar.


Croatian Christmas customs are part of the Croatian tradition. Some of the traditions are still nourished, and traditional Christmas dishes are different depending on the part of Croatia. Which dishes are specific to each region? Which specialty is your favorite at this time of the year?

Preparations for Christmas begin weeks earlier although the cook already knows what will be served at the Christmas table.

Whether you are a believer or not, on Christmas Eve dinner table you can expect fish dishes, seasoned meals, and various salads because on Christmas we enjoy in more than one course of a meal, along with a main roasted course that depends on the region in Croatia.

Everyone has a favorite Christmas dish probably from the part of Croatia we come from and we can’t imagine Christmas without it!




Different types of fish (freshwater fish or sea fish) are served on Christmas Eve dinner in the capital of Croatia. Also, it is common to find a squid on the holiday table in the most attractive Advent destination in Europe. Bean salad, cabbage salad or French salad is often served with roasting on a Christmas. When we say Christmas roasting in Zagreb we usually mean turkey, less often chicken or pig roast. Turkey is followed by popular flatbread or roasted potatoes. The popular Christmas dessert is Poppyseed roll or Walnut roll with and a lot of small biscuits.





In Slavonia, Christmas Eve begins with honey brandy and seasonal dishes. The old habit was not to eat anything until a dinner that was abundant but today people often prepare



Fiš Paprikaš for lunch. Except for the Fiš Paprikaš, some freshwater fishes can also be found on the menu. One of the most famous Slavonian fish specialties is carp. On a Christmas table, you will usually find roasted beef in sauce or chicken roast. There will be a lot of cakes on the table  – we all know that Slavonian cakes are the best! Poppyseed roll, Walnut roll, a lot of small biscuits… and you can even find a delicious cake!

What about Central Croatia? Delicious fish dishes, mostly freshwater fish and various salads are served on Christmas Eve. Roast duck is prepared in Međimurje County, and south of Međimurje pig roast is more popular. In the days after Christmas, locals love to prepare cabbage rolls – traditional Croatian dish.

Istria and Kvarner adore fish soup! Except for sea fish, Istrian will also prepare Bakalar (Cod) on the Christmas Eve, and other fish specialties or pasta, but without meat. For Christmas, the Istrian will have turkey, and often homemade bread. The most popular dessert is walnut roll and bishop’s bread – dried fruit biscuit.


In Lika, you can expect sea fish dishes on Christmas Eve. Cabbage rolls are served first for Christmas lunch and later pig or lamb roast followed by roasted potatoes.


Dalmatia is popular for its delicious Cod and Luganiga sausage. It is interesting how the Cod found itself as an inevitable dish of Dalmatian cuisine on Christmas Eve. Maritime tradition, characteristic of Mediterranean countries, made Cod a symbol of well-being. It is prepared with white wine, spices, and potatoes.



Šibenik is famous for Luganiga sausage. Christmas without Luganinga sausage is not Christmas for people from Šibenik. It is a special kind of sausage with plenty of spices popular in this area. Roasted turkey and Pašticada made from the finest beef meat are also favorite Christmas dishes in Dalmatia! Cakes are often made of dried fruit and everyone loves Fritule – a festive Croatian pastry that resembles little doughnuts.


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