The Politics of Christmas in Croatia: We Do Not Celebrate Communism Here

By 22 December 2015

A welcoming Christmas decoration or a sublime Communist statement. In politically charged Croatia, there is no such thing as a simple Christmas star?

In trademark glorious sunshine just three days before Christmas on December 22, 2015, local residents gathered on the main square of Jelsa on Hvar for their usual late morning coffee.

The scene was tranquil, the conversation pleasant and covering the usual topics from national politics to olive picking. Only this pre-Christmas, there was one extra topic which seemed to divide the community - the politics of the Christmas decorations on the main square. 

As a foreigner, I had been pointed to the subject of all the controversy - a star in the middle of a row of decorations which hovered over the entrance to the pretty Dalmatian square. As I wrote on a blog that afternoon, I was asked to look at the decorations and explain what I saw in the middle. 

After a little contemplation and a lot of concentration, I gave my answer. I saw a star.

it was a sign perhaps that even after 13 years of living in a community, a foreigner will not completely integrate into Dalmatian island life, for the offending star was obviously a deliberate provocation in these politically charged times - a throwback to the star on the flag of Communist ex-Yugoslavia.

I laughed when this was explained to me, for all I saw was a star, but then the rumours started last night. The star was causing such offence that it would possibly be removed in the morning. 

And so it proved.

Two workmen appeared in the midday sun to remove the offending star and replace it with something more palatable. When their work was done, I approached one and asked why the star had been removed.

"Because Christmas is a religious event. We do not celebrate Communism here."

With the main political parties struggling to find agreement on forming a national government, perhaps the Jelsa fallen star is a symbol of how deeply entrenched the divisions are, and of the very rocky road ahead.

TCN contacted Jelsa Mayor for comment on the removal of the star. The SDP mayor had this statement:

"As Mr. Bradbury from Total Hvar, said if you look at his article, he saw what most normal people saw when looking at the decoration - a star. A star which is commonplace in decoration for Christmas and many other aspects of life. 

"For people to try and politicise a Christmas decoration is a sad reflection on how far Croatia has become divided politically, and it reflects badly on us as a country. The comment about Communism was made by a private individual who removed the star, and not an official Opcina employee.

"The star is a Christmas decoration. It was removed this afternoon without my knowledge and permission. You will have to talk to those responsible for more details, as I prefer to focus on the important things in Opcina Jelsa such as running the administration and improving its infrastructure."