Croatian Christmas customs and tradition

We are just a few days away from the most magical time of the year!

There is no doubt that you might be decorating your home, collecting recipes for your upcoming Christmas table, thinking of last minute gifts or just looking for interesting topics to talk about during Christmas dinner with your loved ones.

If you’re looking for some inspiration online, take a look at some interesting customs from throughout some of Croatia’s regions.

Advent Zagreb 2019, Croatia -photo by J. Duval, photo credit by Zagreb city TB
Advent Zagreb 2019, Croatia -photo by J. Duval, photo credit by Zagreb city TB

Christmas holiday gathering

One of the most beautiful Christmas customs is sharing a great holiday table.

Even though the Christmas trees come to us as an ancient custom, the trees have been decorated since the second half of the 19th century. In contrast, 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 decorating…

A live nativity scene 2016., Zagreb, Croatia, photo by - M. Vrdoljak, photo credit by Zagreb City TB
A live nativity scene 2016., Zagreb, Croatia, photo by – M. Vrdoljak, photo credit by Zagreb City TB

 Christmas in Slavonia

In Slavonia, kids used to sing under the table for more eggs in the house the following year, and later they would go to the Midnight Mass. The family would sing and visit friend’s houses and drink some brandy. 

The symbol of hay

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. 

Live-nativity-scene-S-Kaštelan, Advent, Zagreb, Croatia
Live nativity scene, photo by S.Kaštelan, Advent, Zagreb, Croatia

The meaning of the flames in Istria

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 caterpillars.

aaron-burden-233841-unsplash.jpg
aaron-burden-233841-unsplash.jpg

Everybody has it own Štef

In the Zagorje region, there wasn’t a strong tradition of giving presents. It was not good to invite someone on Christmas because it was a family holiday and nobody did any physical jobs during that period. These two weeks were devoted to a family. Almost everyone had at least one Štef (Stephen) in the family. On the 26th of December, on „Štefanje“ (the day of St Stephen), friends and families celebrated that name by visiting their beloved ones.

Stay tuned for our next post, where we will present you with some of the traditional meals that can be found on the Croatian table during the Christmas holidays.

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. 

Advent 2020, St. Mark Square, Zagreb, Croatia, photo by S. Kaštelan, photo credit by Zagreb City TB
Advent 2020, St. Mark Square, Zagreb, Croatia, photo by S. Kaštelan, photo credit by Zagreb City TB

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