Celebrating Christmas, Croatian Style

There is something magical about the festive season and the predominantly Roman Catholic Croatia has a heap of humble Christmas traditions that keeps the spirit alive throughout December. Here are a few Croatian Christmas traditions you can expect when visiting Croatia, or why not adopt one or two yourself.

Colors of Croatia

Christmas colors of Croatia

December 6th is the day of St. Nicholas and on the night prior, all the kids get out their finest pairs of shoes and place them in the window-sill in hope to wake up and find them filled with candy. You see, St. Nick awards kids who have been good but always tagging along is the evil Krampus who places gold-painted whipping branches in the shoes of kids who have behaved badly. The tale of St. Nicholas came about after a kind and poor father was unable to pay any dowry for his three daughters to be wed and one morning they woke up to find gold coins by the window, making them eligible for marriage. Some Croats, mostly those from the Northern and Central celebrate this day with serious gift giving, even more than on Christmas Day.

Another charming and witty tradition is celebrated on St. Lucy’s Day which is December 13th. This day is targeted to single women, who are to prepare 12 pieces of paper; on 11 of them should have the names of young men she likes and the 12th piece should be left blank. The girl or woman should then toss the 11 pieces of paper into the fireplace of her home and magically the 12th piece of paper will reveal the name of the man she will marry in the next year. If the paper is blank, she will have to wait another year in hope the paper will reveal a name. 

zagreb chrsitmas

Christmas in Zagreb

The most widespread tradition on the day of St. Lucy (Sv. Lucija) is that the mother of the household plants a bowl of wheat seeds to grow tall by Christmas. The Christmas wheat is placed under the tree and decorated with red, white, and blue ribbon to represent the national flag. It is believed that the longer the wheat grows, the more success you will have in the coming year so if you want to give the growing a head-start, some Croats plant the wheat on December 4th, St. Barbara’s Day.

In between all the saint celebrations in December, Croatia’s city squares take on a true festive vibe as little huts take the shape of a Christmas market where mulled wine, cookies, sausages and other winter specialties are prepared. It becomes a real mingling ground and makes this winter month one of the best in Croatia.


Fritula are sweet dumplings served on Christmas in Croatia

and although there this day is reserved for family time, this is postponed for the following Christmas day. Badnjak is a day of meeting up with friends and family for a drink and casual dinner.  Specialties usually include cod fish in brodetto or bianco sauce (rather odd for a country so rich in its fishing tradition has a national dish with a fish imported from the North sea), salted sardines, stuffed cabbage, Zagorje noodles, pašticada meat stew, fritula sweet dumplings, and fig cake.

The Christmas festivities end January 6th on the feast of holy three kings. Kids march around with a self-crafted star and knock on doors to be award with candy. This is also the day with the Christmas decorations are stored back into the basement and the Christmas tree is taken out.


Are you going to adopt some Croatian Christmas traditions this year? Any other Croatian traditions you may know of? Better yet, come to Croatia and mingle with locals to experience the humble month of December.



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