For this 3rd part of our Christmas series, we will look at how the people of Croatia celebrate Christmas.
Christmas starts on December 5, eve of St Nicholas, for the Croatians but for some the Christmas preparations can start as early as on November 25 which is St Catherine’s Day.
Croatian children start their Christmas celebration on December 5 where they clean their shoes and leave them on the window sill. The well behaved kids will wake up to shoes filled with sweets and gifts. If the children have been naughty, then Krampus, the monster with horns will leave them golden twigs instead of sweets and goodies, to remind them to behave.
Advent having already started on November 25, you will see many families displaying the Advent wreath which is made of straw or twigs with four candles in the wreath.
The wreath symbolizes endlessness and the four candles have different significance:
- First Candle – creation, hope
- Second Candle – Embodiment, peace
- Third Candle – Redemption, Joy
- Fourth Candle – Ending, Love
The main celebrations start on Christmas Even where in some rural parts of the country, some Croatians still follow the tradition of bringing straw into the house as a symbol of future good crops. A traditional yule log known as Badnjak is brought into the home. Meat is usually avoided until December 25 as it’s considered as meat fast so meat is not allowed to be consumed. Most people will eat dried cod called bakalar and fried doughnuts.
People will unwrap their Christmas presents on Christmas morning after attending morning Christmas service in church. Amidst the opening of presents, they will feast on a hearty Christmas meal of turkey, goose, sarma a popular side dish which is basically cabbage rolls filled with minced pork.
The Christmas celebrations extend all the way until January 6 when the Christmas tree and decorations are also taken down.