December in Croatia
Updated: Dec 14, 2019
December, or Prosinac in Croatian, is a month filled with festive holidays! It's the beginning of winter so the temperatures are cold and you will definitely see snow on the mountains. Cities, towns and villages all around the country celebrate the Advent, which begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas. Advent is the Christian period of waiting for the birth of Jesus and traditionally Croatians used to braid their own round wreath, which symbolizes eternity. This is a time to be spent with family and friends, socializing, music, good food, Christmas markets, gifts and penance.
December 6th - Saint Nicholas Day
This holiday is celebrated throughout Croatia. On the night of December 5th, children polish their boots and set them on a windowsill. Through the night Saint Nicholas fills their shoes with candy and gifts and Krampus (his devilish companion) leaves branches for naughty children. The more bad the behavior, the bigger the branch. Every child gets a twig as a warning to be good. On the morning of December 6th children open their presents. This day is usually accompanied with a large feast. Saint Nicholas, or Sveti Nikola in Croatian, was a Christian bishop and is now a patron saint of children, students, sailors, merchants, archers and repentant thieves. Saint Nicholas is not the same character as Santa Claus, however, many people get the two confused and tend to blend them together.
See our blog: Saint Nicholas vs. Santa Claus for more details.
December 13th - Saint Lucia's Day
This holiday is celebrated throughout the country. In some southern and northeastern parts of Croatia, Saint Lucia was the one who brought children presents. Nowadays, on this day it is popular to plant Christmas Wheat, or Božićna pšenica in Croatian. It is believed that the taller the wheat grows, the more prosperous the new year will be. This tradition dates back to times when agriculture was the main economic activity. By Christmas Eve, the wheat should be tall and bright green and is tied with a ribbon in red, white and blue, the colors of the Croatian flag. This day is usually accompanied with a large feast. Saint Lucia, or Sveta Lucija in Croatian, was one of the earliest Christian martyrs and was killed by the Romans for her religious beliefs. She is known as the patron saint of virgins, sight and the city of Syracuse, Sicily.
December 24th - Christmas Eve
Croatians also call this day Badnja večer. Badnjak is a log lit on Christmas Eve and is meant to stay burning throughout Christmas Day. Traditionally, this is the most important part of the entire Christmas celebration. This day is also more commonly when you put up and decorate the Christmas tree and then leave up until Three Kings Day or Epiphany on January 6th of the new year. Croatians did not begin the custom of the Christmas tree until the mid-19th Century. Before this, homes were decorated with flowers and seasonal fruits, like plums, pears and apples. Children would make paper ornaments. The main course for the feast on this day is traditionally fish with festive pastries and cakes for dessert.
December 25th - Christmas Day
Christmas, or Božić in Croatian, is a day of family and feast usually consisting of some type of main meat dish, such as pork, lamb or beef. Sarma is a popular recipe to bake (and is also one of my favorite meals) that consists of soured cabbage rolls stuffed with meat and rice.
December 31st - New Year's Eve
Two towns in Croatia celebrate New Year's Eve at noon, Zagorje and Fužine. Food, music and dancing fill the towns and when the clock strikes twelve colorful powder fireworks fill the sky.
There is so much to celebrate during the month of December. The holidays are steeped in traditional customs and religion. Vacation during this time and you will definitely discover a large and important part of Croatian culture. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Sretan Božić and Sretna Nova Godina!