Sunday, 15 August 2021

Archbishop of Zagreb Says Song of Mary Applies to All

ZAGREB, 15 Aug, 2021 - The Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, said on Sunday the task stemming from the Magnificat, the Song of Mary, applied to every individual and the entire people, "starting from those who carry responsibility in the Church, political and social areas."

Speaking at the central Mass on the occasion of the Assumption in the Marija Bistrica Marian shrine, he said, among other things, that the ongoing pandemic showed that strong civil friendship and unity were necessary and that people were responsible for one another.

"That's why today we pray for all those ill with coronavirus as well as those caring for them, notably the medical staff."

The cardinal also said the Feast of the Assumption led to a better understanding that every conception and birth of a human being was a gift to the mother, the family and the community.

Among those attending the service were Veterans Minister Tomo Medved and Physical Planning, Construction and State Assets Minister Darko Horvat.

Today is also the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Marija Bistrica as the Croatian National Marian Shrine.

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Thursday, 1 July 2021

Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute Expanding Scientific Cooperation in Sarajevo (BiH)

July 2, 2021 - Dedication to researching and developing the field of social sciences sees the Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute expanding scientific cooperation once again after Željko Holjevac's visit to Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute, active as always, continues to expand its cooperation on scientifically explain social issues (symbolically noted as 2021 marks 30 years of the Institute).

As reported on their official website, Institute headmaster dr. Željko Holjevac visited Sarajevo, the capital city of the neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina, from June 21-23.

The main story of that visit was a signed bilateral cooperation agreement between the Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute and the Sarajevo Catholic Faculty. The agreement was signed by Holjevac and Faculty dean dr. Darko Tomašević.

Additionally, Holjevac was at the reception with Vrhbosanski's vice bishop Vinko Puljić.

„They talked about possible shared projects that would be adjusted to the tradition, culture and developing needs of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina“, informed Ivo pilar social research Institute.

Croatian Cultural Society Napredak (progress) also met with Holjevac. Napredak soon celebrates 120 years of work and was founded at the start of the 20th century when the famous Croatian social scientist Pilar was active in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Napredak plans various manifestations for their big anniversary, and dr. Holjevac discussed the possible cooperation in organizing an international scientific symposium regarding the identity of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Ivo Pilar Institute working in full speed

This sort of cooperation in regards to researching the Croatian diaspora in the neighboring country where the Croatian historical role and present is significant is nothing new for the Ivo Pilar Social research Institute.

As TCN reported earlier in May, the Institute, along with scientific partners, organized a conference “Identity of Boka Kotorska Croatians“, and the three-day event gathered crucial scientific institutes in Croatia to the town of Tivat in the Bay of Croatian Saints in Montenegro.

Scientists from the Institute were also active this year as they participated at European Conference For Social Work Research (ECSWR), International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF) Conference, and also by presenting a book on Croatian Mountain Rescue Service in Gospić, or by presenting book Cultural Identity of Vukovar – Contribution to Investigating Heritage and Successors“ – to list some of the activities TCN reported on throughout 2021.

As 2021 marks the 30th year anniversary of the Ivo Pilar Institute, apart from the aforementioned actions (to which we can include nurturing relations with scientific colleagues in Slovakia or opening a new research office on Vis Island), several more goals were envisioned by the end of the year: to publish the first edition of critical translation for the book „South Slavic (Yugoslav) Question“ by Ivo Pilar from 1918, and to make and publish Pilar's Kaleidoskop of Croatian society.

With the active academic dynamic demonstrated by the Institute, there is no doubt there is enough quality and capacity to achieve these goals. It is only a matter of time in such a busy and productive schedule.

Learn more about Croatian Diaspora on our TC page.

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Friday, 22 January 2021

22 January: Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia

January 22 2021 – January 22 is Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia. Marked significantly in continental winemaking regions, its folk traditions pre-date Christianity and are celebrated with food, wine, music and merriment

Nearing the end of January, it's not uncommon to see snow on the fields of Croatia. The ground can be hard, brittle, frozen. There's little to be done in them right now. And yet, on 22 January in Croatia, winemakers traditionally head to their vineyards. They do this not to undertake a day's work – for today is a day of rest. They instead do this to mark the tradition of Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia.

As a name, Vincent has many variants, Vinko being one popular in Croatia. Similarly, Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, is also known by several different names in the country, depending on the region. You can hear it called Vinceška, Vincekovo, Vincelovo, Vinkovo and even Vinceće.

Vincekovo_GVT-2019-14a_1.jpgVincekovo marked with wine and meat in traditional folk costume in Varaždinske Toplice © Grad Varaždinske Toplice

Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, is mostly marked in the northern continental area of the country and throughout the entire east, in traditional Slavonia and Baranj and the Croatian part of Syrmia, around Ilok. In these places, it is a day inextricably linked with the production of wine. That people seem to associate St Vincent as 'the wine guy' seems reasonable – Vinko and vino (the Croatian word for wine) are almost the same, right? Well, actually it's not so simple.

The related name Viktor (also used in Croatia) gives us the best example for the meaning of the name. Vincent comes from the Latin word 'vincere' (to conquer or to be victorious). But, although it looks similar in Latin ('in vino veritas' - in wine there is truth), the word for wine is much, much older and may have an entirely root.

Ilok2020.jpgVinkovo in Ilok 2020 © Youtube screenshot

Nobody is really sure where the word 'wine' comes from. The ancient Greek word 'oinos' certainly pre-dates the Latin but, truth be told, its true origins have been lost in time, providing entertaining mystery for today. What we do know is that there is a common origin word for wine that crops up in several completely different language groups.

You can find a similar ancient word for wine being used from southern Russia, right the way down through the Caucasus and the non-Indo European languages used in the area of modern-day Georgia, and in the western Semitic languages of the Levant (Arabic: wain, Hebrew: yayin). From the Mediterranean tongues of Latin and Greek, back up again to Russia, this time via Slavic and Germanic lands, the word is the same. It seems that ever since people learned how to cultivate and ferment grapes, different peoples have all know the end product by the same word.

Who knows? Perhaps there is a shared origin for the words? As any winemaker will tell you, the production of excellent vino does indeed require a conquering of the vines. The vines from which we grow grapes actually hail from wild varieties that grew in Russia and central Europe, yet the earliest traces of wine production are found in more southerly regions, where the climate is warmer, this journey itself a conquering act of cultivation. In early Indo-European languages, the root 'wei' means to turn or to bend. The earliest evidence of grapevine cultivation and wine production comes from the South Caucasus, present-day Georgia and dates back at least 8000 years.

1275px-Barry_capitaine._F._25._Grand_vase_pour_la_conservation_du_vin_en_Kacheti_Géorgie._Mission_scientifique_de_Mr_Ernest_Chantre._1881.jpgA Georgian man in traditional dress stands alongside a qvevri, a clay pot used for making Georgian wine in 1881. Once filled, the clay amphora are buried beneath the ground, which helps regulate the temperature of the fermenting wine. Evidence of winemaking in the region is the oldest in the world - it goes back 8000 years  © Public domain

Although several saints share the name Vincent, Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, marks the death of the saint known as Vincent of Saragossa. Born to a well-off family in Saragossa (Zaragoza), north-eastern Spain, Vinncent devoted his life to the church and became deacon in the Church of Saragossa. He was tortured under the persecution of Christians demanded by Roman Emperor Diocletian, asked to renounce his faith - which he refused to do - and was martyred around the year 304. We mark Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia and the western Christian world on 22 January as this is presumed to be the actual day of his death. St Vincent is not only the patron saint of winemakers, but also the patron saint of vinegar makers, which may come as comfort to some of the less able wine producers of the region.

Basilica_del_Pilar-sunset.jpgCathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar and the Puente de Piedra bridge on the Ebro River in Saragossa, the birthplace of St Vincent © Paulo Brandao

As with other mysteries surrounding wine, quite why the midwinter period of 22 January, Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, should be significant to winemakers also poses some questions. “I have no idea!” said one Dalmatian winemaker when asked to explain the significance of the day to his craft. “But you know those Slavonians are all crazy, right?” And, on the surface, his unknowing is quite understandable. There is little happening in the frozen fields right now. But, it is possible that this celebration pre-dates not only St Vincent but Christianity itself.

Vincekovo-slika-Likovna-Republika.jpgA Croatian painting tellingly shows how traditions of St Vincent's Day in Croatia have little changed over the years © Tourist Board Jestrebarsko

Everyone favourite ancient God at the party, Dionysus was the Greek God of wine, the grape harvest, fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, festivity and theatre. His celebration took place in the period from the 11th to the 13th of anthesterion, which corresponds in today's calendar to between around now and February. On the wild feast of Dionysus (who is sometimes called Bacchus or Liber, as in liberty, freedom), barrels of new wine were broken open and the celebration marked the impending arrival of the new season – spring. And, this too is how Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, is marked.

1775px-Cornelis_de_Vos_-_El_triunfo_de_Baco.jpgThe Triumph of Bacchus, a 17th-century painting by Cornelis de Vos © Public domain

Several saints' days in Croatia correspond to significant points in the agricultural calendar, tellingly revealing their pre-Christian roots. Another of those corresponding to winemaking is Martinje – St Martin's Day in Croatia. However, Martinje is traditionally a more proletarian festivity – it comes at the end of the harvest when there is no more hard work for all the manual labourers to do. Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia is a day more traditionally associated with their boss the vineyard owner. It is also traditionally a more testosterone-filled affair – a sausage party, if you will. In more ways than one.

Vinceška-Vina-Belje-2019-21-960x640meats.jpgKulen and other sausages, hung traditionally beside the vines on St Vincent's Day - the company that made these, Belje, is one of the best and most famous in Croatia. They trace their history in the Baranja region back to the year 1697. Without very much fanfare at all, they have been significant contributors of food to the relief effort for the 29 December 2020 earthquake in Sisak Moslavina County. In Baranja, you'll most likely hear this day called Vinceška © Belje

Around this time, vines within the vineyard will be cut back. There is a limited amount of nutrients that may pass down a vine and this cutting back ensures the nutrients are concentrated to help guarantee a limited, good crop. Whether this cutting back has actually taken place in days prior, on Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, vineyard owners are charged with visiting their vines – whatever the weather – and ceremoniously cutting back a vine, usually one with at least three new buds on, which is then traditionally brought into the home and placed in a watered jar. The progress of the buds supposedly predicts the next season's crops, although many other folk traditions associated with Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, also serve the same purpose. Melting snow, rain and sunshine on Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia are also traditionally regarded as predictors of a fine harvest, although water dripping from the eaves on Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia could mean the year will be wet.

Pavlomir_Novi_Vinodol_Primorsko-Goranska.jpgVincekovo celebrated in Pavlomir, Novi Vinodol, Primorsko-Goranska County © Youtube screenshot

As the gregarious Dionysus might have said himself, you can't really have a celebration with just one guy. And, famously gregarious themselves, Slavonians rarely make the trip to the vineyard alone. Neighbours, family, friends and even musicians might make the journey with them to join in the blessing of the vines. In Croatia today, you can still see some people undertaking this ceremony in traditional folk costume.

Vinkovo_in_Ilok_2019.jpgVinkovo in Ilok 2019. Brrrrrr! © Youtube screenshot

The vine that has been pruned is ritually sprinkled with old wine. Song and drinking accompany the ceremony and both old and new wine may make an appearance. No Slavonia or Baranja party is complete without kulen, their king of sausages, and on Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia, it is traditional to hang kulen and/or švargla (another monstrous preserved portion of pig product) from a post in order to encourage the next season's crop to be as fertile and bountiful as these sizeable sausages.

1626px-Sacrificio_a_Baco_Massimo_Stanzione.jpgSacrifice to Bacchus by Massimo Stanzione c. 1634 © Public domain. Some of the folk traditions observed on St Vincent's Day in Croatia probably pre-date Christianity

Hearty snacks usually accompany the celebration in the fields and with the ceremonious part taken care of, the taste for another class acquired and the body accustomed to the cold, now is the traditional time to march around the locale to visit the wine cellars of your neighbouring growers. If you're a winemaker of a Dionysian bent, you'll probably take along some food like kulen, a roasted pig, fis paprikas, a wild meat stew (cobanac) or even the tamburica musicians who came to the fields with you. If not, your neighbouring winemaker might well greet you with these. If you live in an area of traditional winemaking, that's a lot of neighbouring wine cellars to visit and celebrations on Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia can extend well into the night.

fishp.jpegFiš paprikaš is a spicy river fish stew, richly red from paprika. It is popular in Slavonia, Baranja and Syrmia. Along with the wild meats stew čobanac and whole šaran (carp), butterflied and cooked outside over an open flame, it is a warming and popular dish to eat in eastern Croatia on St Vincent's Day © Romulić & Stojčić

Sunday, 17 January 2021

17 January: Feast of Saint Anthony the Great in Croatia

January 17, 2021 – On the Feast of Saint Anthony the Great in Croatia, horns named after the saint sound out in the village of Halubje, Kvarner, marking the start of the annual marches made by their masked bell ringers, the zvončari, and for the carnival season in their region. Over subsequent days, they will travel from village to village before descending on Rijeka

Following a long period of Advent, the extended celebrations of Christmas and the explosive culmination of the season on New Year's Eve, many in the northern hemisphere retreat and relax in January. This is a time to wait out the remaining cold days of winter, the signs of spring hopefully just around the corner. Just a few days after spring arrives, it's Easter, the next grand, annual occasion in their Christian calendar. But, not in Croatia.

In Croatia, January brings a strangeness to the air. The sound of bells carries on the chilly wind. As the discordant chimes draw nearer, bizarre figures in furs, strange fibres, masks or with painted faces perform a timeless dance in circles. January in Croatia is the start of the season for carnival, fašnik or maškare, an annual occurrence sometimes many months in the making. That the masked bell ringers - zvončari – should make their otherworldly entrance on 17 January, the Feast of Saint Anthony the Great in Croatia is most befitting.

Luca_signorelli_santi_eligio_e_antonio_sansepolcro.jpgSaint Anthony the Great and John the Evangelist pictured on one side of The Crucifixion Standard (1502-1505) by Luca Signorelli © Public domain

The title of Saint Anthony is shared by several men, the most prominent being Anthony of Padua who lived between 1195 and 1231. Saint Anthony The Great, or Anthony of Egypt, lived much earlier - between 251 and 356. Although not the first Christian to forgo worldly pursuits in order to fully devote himself to religion, Anthony of Egypt is regarded as the Father of All Monks and of the monastic life. He gained this title by casting himself into the wilderness of the Eastern Desert in Egypt. It is fitting that the Feast of Saint Anthony the Great in Croatia should signal the start of the mystical carnival season because, while in the wilderness, it is said Anthony of Egypt experienced a series of supernatural events – the appearance of mythical beats, of unnatural temptations.

1441px-The_Minotaur_by_Michael_Ayrton_03.jpgA centaur - one of the supernatural meetings St Anthony is said to have had in the wilderness. With the head of a bull and the body of a man, he does not look too dissimilar to some Croatian zvončari  © statue by Michael Ayrton, photo by 14GTR

The telling of Anthony's supernatural temptations became rich in metaphor, particularly from the Middle Ages. These tales - his meeting of a centaur and a satyr, of demons in a cave and a plate of silver coins - would go on to inspire artists and writers for centuries. Wild in fantastical detail, they lent themselves particularly well to the extravagant imaginations of painters like Hieronymus Bosch and surrealists like Dorothea Tanning, Max Ernst, Leonora Carrington and Salvador Dalí (main image).

Joos_van_Craesbeeck_-The_Temptation_of_St_Anthony_1.jpgThe Temptation of St. Anthony by Joos van Craesbeeck, c. 1650, inspired by earlier paintings of Saint Anthony by Hieronymus Bosch

Although maškare and the zvončari are an event and figures from pagan traditions, with the bells they carry you could almost be forgiven for thinking they were continuing the work of St Anthony the great in Croatia. The costumed bellringing of the zvončari - which was added to UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009 – is an effort to ward off evil spirits. And who's to say if these are not the same one who plagued Anthony in the wilderness.

Just as they hold different names in different places, fešta, carnival, fašnik or maškare takes place on different days and at different times of year. Similarly, the zvončari associated strongly with the carnival season of Kvarner, all have different costumes, dances and traditions which vary from village to village. These traditions have been passed down through generations, indeed it is thanks to the zvončari themselves that the carnival in Rijeka was in 1982 revived. It has now grown to become what is traditionally the country's largest.

zvoncar_maska.jpgHalubajski Zvončari © Halubajski Zvonč

On 17 January, the Feast of Saint Anthony the Great in Croatia, in Halubje, Kvarner, near Rijeka, carnival games, festivities and music fills the streets. The town's Halubajski Zvončari are one of the oldest groups who undertake the tradition and they are one of the zvončari groups responsible for bringing back Rijeka carnival. The sounding of St Anthony's horns in the town on the Feast of Saint Anthony the Great in Croatia marks the official commencement of carnival season and of the marching of the Halubajski Zvončari. Over subsequent days, they will march, accompanied by music, through villages in the region, eventually descending into Rijeka on carnival day. This tradition was recorded in written records in 1860. Some say the bells are meant to ward off Ottomans or Tartars as much as they are evil spirits, which makes the tradition even earlier.

Sunday, 27 December 2020

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus and the Feast of St John the Apostle

December 27, 2020 – Today is the third day of Christmas in Croatia and in 2020, something rather special is happening. December 27 is always the Feast of St John, Apostle and Evangelist. But, an even more important day of celebration is assigned to the Sunday between Christmas Day and New Year's Day - the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. In 2020, that is today and so both celebrations occur on the same day

That these two feasts are taking place on the same day in 2020 is not unique. It has happened before. But, as the two days – and those they commemorate – share similar themes, today is a special occasion within Christmas 2020. Because of their common themes, today is a day most of all to celebrate love and be thankful for it.

lichitartzzz.jpg© Tourist Board Zagreb County

John the Apostle is one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. He is the younger brother of James, another disciple and is widely held to be the author of several books within the New Testament. He is the only disciple of Jesus to be referred to as 'the beloved disciple', meaning that Jesus loved him.

Just how different the relationship between Jesus and John the Apostle was compared to how Jesus was with the other disciples is now difficult to ascertain. According to some church traditions, John is the cousin of Jesus – his mother is remembered by some as the sister of Mary, Jesus's mother. John is frequently mentioned across many books of the New Testament as a key witness to many of its events. John is there with Jesus when they land a miraculous catch of fish from the Sea of Galilee, he is seated next to Jesus at the Last Supper, he is present, alongside Jesus' mother, at the crucifixion and he is witness to Jesus's empty tomb.

1920px-The_Last_Supper_-_Leonardo_Da_Vinci_-_High_Resolution_32x16.jpgThe Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. As we look at the painting, the 'disciple who Jesus loved', John, is seated next to Jesus on the left, on Jesus's right hand side

The special bond between the two has been represented in art over centuries. John the Apostle is usually depicted as the youngest-looking disciple, beardless, sometimes androgynous. Some scholars believe that this depiction assisted men to accept the unbridled devotion requested of a Christian to Jesus – such devotion may traditionally have been viewed as being at odds with a masculine role.

The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph celebrates a different kind of love – that between members of the family. Its message is as pertinent in today's society as it ever was. The feast celebrates the love between Jesus, Mary and Joseph, providing a model family unit to which Christian families can aspire. But, by some measuring, theirs is no model family unit – Joseph is not the father of Jesus. He is the step-father of Jesus. Regardless, the bond between the three is set as an ideal for others to follow, the message being that love between family members is of far greater value than any regard for blood ties or any traditional notions of the family unit.

1497px-The_Holy_Family_-_Rafael.jpgThe Holy Family by Raphael, 1518

In Croatia, the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is a Holy day of obligation. Being a Sunday, faithful believers are expected to refrain from doing work and to attend church for Mass, which many do. It is otherwise a day of rest, free of recreational activities and, perhaps, therefore, a time for contemplation. That our thoughts should be drawn to appreciating the ones we love, who love us and the relationships we have with them is no bad suggestion at all.

Saturday, 26 December 2020

Štefanje / Sveti Stjepan - St Stephens Day in Croatia

December 26, 2020 – Is it time to walk off some of the calories gained yesterday? Today is St Stephens Day in Croatia and it's a time when people traditionally leave the home to wish Happy Christmas to others outside the immediate family. This living tradition has its roots in the story of St Stephen

Today is St Stephens Day in Croatia. Coming after two of the most keenly observed dates in the annual Christian calendar, it can get lost in the fanfare of the preceding two days, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Yet, St Stephens Day in Croatia is still significant. It is a national holiday, as it is in many Christian countries. It is still very much a part of Christmas and not only because of all the delicious leftover Christmas food you get to eat on this day. Traditionally, St Stephens Day in Croatia is also the day on which you leave the house, where you have spent Christmas Day with immediate family, to go and visit wider members of your families and friends to wish them Merry Christmas.

Let Every Day Be Christmas

Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself.
Peace on Earth, good will to men, kind thoughts and words of cheer,
are things we should use often and not just once a year.

Remember too the Christ-child, grew up to be a man;
to hide him in a cradle, is not our dear Lord's plan.
So keep the Christmas spirit, share it with others far and near,
from week to week and month to month, throughout the entire year!”
― Norman Wesley Brooks, 1976.

In this American poem, the most-remembered quote is that Christmas is not for just one day. But, this is only a modern reminder, just like the secular song '12 Days of Christmas', which holds that Christmas runs until January 6 (the Epiphany). In the Catholic church, like Easter, Christmas is granted an octave - a full eight days of official celebration. Within the Catholic Octave of Christmas which runs from Christmas Day until January 1, the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God - there are several specific feasts, each one singular, but each a part of Christmas. St Stephens Day is dedicated to the first Christian martyr.

St Stephens Day in Croatia is known by several names. In Dalmatia, it's commonly called Stipanovo, in Slavonia you might hear it called Stjepanovo. In Zagreb and the surroundings, Štefanje is more common and some people refer to it as Stjepan dan, as they sometimes do in America - 'Stephen's Day'.

1278px-Manchester_United_v_Zorya_Luhansk,_September_2016_(08)_-_Zlatan_Ibrahimović_(edited).jpgSt Stephens Day is known as Boxing Day in the UK, where it is an important day for sporting events using horses and for football. On Sir Alex Ferguson's final Boxing Day as manager of Manchester United (2012), their opponents, Newcastle United, went in front three times during the match - Javier Hernandez finally put Manchester United in front in the first minute of added time, securing them the win. On Boxing Day in 2016, Zlatan Ibrahimovic's cross went to the back of teammate Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but Mkhitaryan arched his foot backwards and struck the ball with the back of his heel, the 'scorpion' kick sending the ball into the net © Ardfern

In America, 26 December is alternatively referred to by its British name – Boxing Day, as it is in other former British colonies such as Australia and Canada. Although a secular holiday and a secular name, Boxing Day is still tied to the church in origin. The modern explanation of the name 'Boxing Day' says this was the day on which the servants of the house - who had been busy cooking, cleaning and serving their employers on Christmas Day - were given the day off and also given boxed gifts. But, the term pre-dates the grand Victorian houses which required such a nationally significant workforce. It actually extends back to the alms boxes of the church, in which the faithful would place money, foods, gifts for the poor during their visits on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The boxes were opened on St Stephens Day and the contents distributed to the needy. In the UK today, Boxing Day is known as a day for sports, particularly football and sports involving horses.

Good Kind Wenceslas is a Christmas Carol specifically about happenings on St Stephens Day. Although its words were only written in 1853, the tune is originally from Finland and dates back to the late Middle Ages, making it one of the oldest Christmas carols in Europe.

According to the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6: 5), St Stephen was one of the seven deacons chosen at the very beginning of the church. After the death of Jesus, Stephen’s open preaching of Jesus’ teachings and his belonging to a community of Christian disciples led him to him being condemned for blasphemy. He was put to death by stoning and is regarded as the first Christian martyr.

Speyerer_Dom,_Steinigung_Stephanus,_1850.jpgJohann von Schraudolph, The Stoning of Stephen (1850) photo of the painting taken by © Joachim Specht

Born in Carthage in the Roman province of Africa, today's Tunisia, north Africa, the importance of prolific, early Christian writer Tertullian (155 AD - 240 AD) to the whole of western Christianity cannot be overstated. Partially of Berber and Phoenician origin, his background meant that he straddled two distinct areas of language – that of the Levant, and the Latin used in Carthage. He was the first writer to produce extensive Christian texts in Latin and is therefore regarded as 'the father of Latin Christianity' and 'the founder of Western theology.'

Throughout the spread of Christianity, one of his quotes has been often repeated - 'Plures efficimur, quitiens metimur a vobis: semen est sanguis Christianorum', liberally translated as 'The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church', more accurately, 'We multiply when you reap us. The blood (of martyrs) is the seed of Christianity'. This quote refers specifically to the story of St Stephan in two very significant ways and explains how St Stephens Day in Croatia is marked today.

1166px-Conversion_of_Saint_Paul_(Michelangelo_Buonarroti).jpgThe Conversion of Saul, fresco by Michelangelo, 1542–1545 © Web Gallery of Art

In the region where Jesus had lived, His death and the subsequent ministry of the disciples meant that the teachings of Jesus were, among some, beginning to take hold. Following the killing of St Stephen, further persecution of Jesus's disciples continued. One of the most ardent of persecutors was Saul of Tarsus, who witnessed the stoning of St Stephan. While Saul was further undertaking this task, Jesus appeared to him on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus and Saul was converted, becoming the 'new seed' of the church, Paul the Apostle. This conversion aside, the persecution continued and those spreading the teachings of Jesus travelled further from this dangerous, confined area to deliver the good news, creating many more news seeds'. And, this is exactly what people do today on St Stephens Day in Croatia. Croatians usually go out of the house to wish Happy Christmas to wider family members and friends.


St Stephen's name - Stéphanos - is Greek in origin and it is presumed that's where his heritage lies. In Greek, his name means 'crown' or 'wreath', which is why St Stephens Day in Croatian is not only the imendan for those with the regionally popular names of Stjepan, Stipan, Stipe, Stipica and Stefan, but also for Krunoslav and Kruno (meaning 'crown'). St. Stephen is revered as the protector of deacons, stonemasons, coffin makers and those suffering from headaches. He is the patron saint of Croatia's next-door neighbour, Serbia and also the patron saint of horses. Horse riding and horse races are traditional on St Stephens Day in Austria, Germany and in Finland - in the latter, the horses pull sleighs across the snow, a fun pursuit following the solemnity of the previous two days. On St Stephens Day in Croatia, horse races used to happen in Istria and the day is still marked by those who keep horses in some parts of the country's north (including some of Croatia's Roma community).

1394px-Hvar-church-1_St._Stephen.jpg© The cathedral of St Stephen on Hvar island © japus

In relatively recent history, a couple of nationally significant happenings have taken place on St Stephens Day in Croatia. On St Stephens Day in Croatia 1968, amendments to Yugoslavian Constitution were adopted by the Federal National Assembly, expanding the autonomy of the provinces, including Croatia, giving them a republic-like status. On 26 December 1990, the parliament in Croatia's other close next-door neighbour, Slovenia, declared independence. Several churches in Croatia are named after St Stephan, most popularly in Dalmatia, where the cathedral on Hvar island is also called St Stephen's, although this building is actually named after Pope Stephen I.

Friday, 25 December 2020

Sretan Božić! Christmas Day in Croatia, December 25

December 25, 2020 – Sretan Božić! It's Christmas Day in Croatia, a time spent cherishing your immediate family. Gifts are exchanged and the fasting of recent days is forgotten as you feast on a variety of favourite, mouth-watering foods. Also, the true meaning of Christmas is always close at hand in Croatia...

There may be a chill in the air outside, but Croatian homes are today aglow with light and warmth. Lights from the Christmas tree illuminate the corners of the room. Beneath the tree, freshly unwrapped gifts are held in the small hands of children, the smiles on their faces shining brighter still than the colourful lights of the tree. Christmas wreaths are hung inside windows or candles are lit, the latter representing that, at last, Jesus Christ is born – the ultimate light of the world.

Worship_of_the_shepherds_by_bronzino.jpgWorship of the shepherds by Bronzino © Bronzino / Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Though the radiators and fires today brace us from the winter outside, Christmas Day in Croatia is not only a time for physical warmth. It is a time for spiritual warmth. Elsewhere in the Christian world, images such as Santa Claus, flying reindeer, wrapped presents and Christmas crackers vie for attention as symbols of the season. While you do see all of the modern trappings of Christmas Day in Croatia, it is almost unthinkable that the true meaning of Christmas will be forgotten. Here, even the decorations of the house and the tree still come in the traditional colours - red symbolising the blood of Jesus, green (as seen in the holly, rosemary and Christmas tree itself) symbolising eternal life, and gold, one of the gifts of the Three Kings, symbolising royalty.

Just short of 800 years ago, Francis of Assisi was busying himself with organising a reenactment of the birth of Jesus Christ. Widely considered to be the first performance of a nativity play, the annual undertaking grew so much in popularity that it drew huge crowds. The nativity play became popularised and spread through Christian Europe as a Christmastime tradition. It is popular for children to take part in a nativity play in the Christmas period, even sometimes on Christmas Day in Croatia. If you don't have a family member taking part in one of the plays, Christmas Day in Croatia is still linked to the birth of Jesus Christ by the prominent placing of the miniature nativity scene - jaslice – in the Christmas home.

stfrancisnativity.jpgSt Francis, painted in a nativity scene. He is credited with founding the now traditional re-enactments of the birth of Jesus Christ

Aside from attending a nativity play, going to church may be the other reason for leaving the home on Christmas Day in Croatia. However, midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is sufficient for many. The focal point of Christmas Day in Croatia is the home and the family.

Christmas Day in Croatia is reserved for immediate family. Tomorrow - St Stephens Day – is traditionally the time when members of the wider family and friends will be visited. However, it's not uncommon to find some outside the close family seated at the table for Christmas Day in Croatia. It is more than usual for Croats to be extremely mindful of family members and friends who may be alone at Christmas. If there is any danger of that happening, the widowed relative, the stranger or the single person will usually be given multiple invitations to join a family on Christmas Day in Croatia. It is an invitation that definitely should be accepted.

The birth of Jesus Christ is a cause for celebration throughout the Christian world and though not officially a feast day, you'd never guess that from the mountains of food you will be served on Christmas Day in Croatia. After the fasting of Advent or that of Christmas Eve at least, Croatians like to go all-out on Christmas Day. However, there are no hard and fast rules for what you might see on the menu nor how it will be served.

christmas-table-1909796_1920.jpgRed, green and gold are the traditional colours of Christmas decorations

In some homes on Christmas Day in Croatia, there will be a hearty breakfast, often containing meat that you abstained from on Christmas Eve. “Right now I will eat breakfast - some eggs, bacon, prosciutto, and kulen, a few types of cheese and dessert,” wrote one friend from Rijeka this morning. “For lunch, my family will meet and my father will make a barbecue because it's the easiest way to make a large amount of meat. We'll have a few different kinds, with some vegetables and some cake and that's it. We are not complicated for Christmas.” In other households, the dining table will look very different on Christmas Day in Croatia.

Slavoniabrekky.jpegA selection of Slavonian meats including kulen. Preserved meats such as these are a common feature on tables during Christmas in Croatia - you might even have them for breakfast on Christmas Day © Romulić & Stojčić

Some may have a more regular breakfast to start the day and some may not have breakfast at all. It is quite normal for Christmas Day in Croatia to revolve around the main dining table and for the food to be placed there for many hours and indulged in whenever you feel the urge. As one course is finished, the empty serving plate is taken away and, before you can blink, something else has been put on the table to take its place.

The eating of turkey at Christmas is a tradition popularised by Americans. The bird actually comes from northern Mexico, an area that is now in the south-eastern United States, where wild examples of this bird can still fly, albeit quite short distances. Native Americans hunted and ate the bird at least 1000 years ago. They used turkey feathers to stabilize their arrows and to be worn, as part of ceremonial headdresses or other adornments. The hard spurs on the turkeys' legs were often crafted into their arrowheads. The bird was domesticated in Mexico, then traded by Native Americans with Europeans who brought it back to their continent in the 16th century. It arrived in Croatia not long after.

purica_4-maja-danica-pecanicwithmlinci.jpgRoasted turkey, a popular Christmas favourite across Croatia, particularly in Zagorje and nearby Zagreb. The white dish in the bottom left of the picture is mlinci © Maja Danica Pecanic / Croatian National Tourist Board

The only native breed of turkey in Croatia is farmed in the traditional Zagorje area, north of Zagreb. Truth be told, the Zagorje kitchen is the kitchen of Zagreb and the eating of Zagorje turkey has been widely adopted as a tradition in the capital city. The Zagorje turkey is protected by its point of origin at an EU-level, as are the pasta sheets – Zagorje mlinci – which are the usual accompaniment. Though you can now buy mlinci from the store, it is said that the handmade ones are still the best. The pasta sheets are cooked in the fat and roasting juices of the turkey but are also used to accompany any other bird you might eat on Christmas Day in Croatia – chicken, goose or duck. It is quite rare to see goose eaten on Christmas Day in Croatia, although some families do treat themselves – the meat is less dry than turkey and the bird easier to cook. Duck is more common, but mostly in the northern parts of Slavonia, near the border with Hungary (where there is substantial duck farming) and in the northern area around Medimurje.

Frenchyat_Nga_corrected (1).jpgFrench salad, a ubiquitous accompaniment to the main meal on Christmas Day in Croatia © Viethavvh

“On the menu today is turkey and Francuska salata (French salad), with some leftover fish soup from yesterday,” wrote one friend from Zagreb. French salad is a popular and ubiquitous accompaniment to meals not only on Christmas Day in Croatia but at all parties and large gatherings. You can find a similar salad in France, but it's not as popular as it is in Croatia. An almost identical salad is eaten in Slavic households across the world. Elsewhere, you'll often see it called Russian salad.

“Our family also makes Christmas turkey, which my dad smokes one day before,” wrote one friend from Slavonia this morning. Smoked turkey is a popular dish in Croatia – you can even buy local, pre-smoked turkey legs from most supermarkets. “We'll have guineafowl soup with vegetables such as carrot, cauliflower, kohlrabi (a type of turnip) and parsley. After the soup, we eat the guineafowl meat with a cooked tomato sauce. The smoked turkey is baked and served with potatoes and mlinci. For dessert, we have chocolate cake and all kinds of different types of cookies, biscuits. There will be cakes, cookies and biscuits on the table all day.”

konavle-zelena menestra TZ KonavleDubrov.jpgZelena Menestra, a favourite of Dubrovnik families at Christmas © TZ Konavle

“For our Christmas lunch we've prepared Zelena Menestra,” wrote one Croatian friend from north Montenegro. His family originally come from the Dubrovnik area, where Zelena Menestra (green stew) is a favourite. The green of the stew comes from cabbage and kale, potatoes are added and its rich flavour comes from the smoked ham hock, bacon and sausages that are cooked alongside. This dish has been eaten in the Dubrovnik area for at least 600 years and it's not uncommon for families to turn to their absolute favourite dishes on Christmas Day in Croatia, regardless of traditions elsewhere. For instance, the incredibly time intensive preparation of Pašticada (at least one day in preparation time to do it correctly) is undertaken in some Dalmatian households on Christmas Day in Croatia. Elsewhere, the family favourites of a whole, roast suckling pig, lamb, pork or sarma will be made. “After the Zelena Menestra, mum has prepared a walnut cake for dessert,” concluded the writer from Montenegro. Walnut and poppy seeds are extremely common flavourings of Christmas desserts in Croatia.

pasticada_1-maja-danica-pecaniccronat.jpgPasticada, a favourite of Dalmatian households at Christmas. It takes at least 24 hours to prepare a good one. The sauce is so rich, with onion, garlic, celery, carrots, parsnip, bacon, red wine vinegar, red wine, tomato puree, prunes and cloves, the usual accompaniment is simple shapes of pasta © Maja Danica Pecanic / Croatian National Tourist Board

With any hunger more than satisfied, at the end of the feasting on Christmas Day in Croatia, it's a time to relax and enjoy the company of those around you. Although it is not uncommon for adults to drink alcohol moderately throughout the whole day, it is rarely a night for wild revelry. You may have a journey to make to relatives or friends tomorrow, or you may have to wake and clean the house because they will visit you. It's not uncommon for people to retire to bed early on Christmas Day in Croatia. And, with their appetites and families satisfied, most will sleep very well.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Nedelisce Parishioners Forgive Priest After He Leaves Church For Love

November 8, 2020 - Nedelisce parishioners are seemingly universal in their understanding and forgiveness as their local pastor leaves the priesthood for an altogether different kind of calling

Not every job is undertaken just to pay the bills. The strong urge to take a specific career is often referred to as a calling. Occupations in which you help other people are usually those described in this way - doctors, teachers, nurses, nuns and priests.

Spoken of with admiration, those who receive 'a calling' are presumed to be on a path of life which is their true destiny. Be it supernatural, genetically implanted or influenced by God, it is considered unlikely that anything could turn their heads and make them veer off course. Such considerations are naïve in their ignorance of Cupid's arrow.

Both Vecernji List and 24 Sata this week reported on the recent resignation of popular parish priest Rev. Tihomir Ciglar (30). Although on his path to the priesthood since he attended Archbishop's Classical Gymnasium in Zagreb, Ciglar has recently departed from his chosen course in favour of an altogether different calling - he fell in love.

Župa presvetog Trojstva.jpgThe parish church in Nedelišće © Župa Presvetog Trojstva - Nedelišće

“He was wonderful.,” one of Ciglar's former Nedelisce parishioners is quoted as saying in 24 Sata. Nedelišće is a small town near Varaždin. “He was mild-mannered, good, everyone's favourite. My whole family loved going to Mass and listening to the sermons because of him. And then what happened, happened. He just fell in love, that's how it was.”

“We don't blame him for anything,” the parishioner continued, her voice apparently representative of locals' general feeling on the affair of the popular priest. She also added that news was circulating about the imminent arrival of the couple's first child. “May God give them many more children!”

Tihomir Ciglar was first presented to Nedelisce parishioners in 2014 as a chaplain, and in 2018 he was appointed pastor of the church. His pull from the pulpit occurred after he met the woman who is now his girlfriend in service of the church – she donated her time in the form of a cook. Further speculation on the development of feelings between the woman and her roamin Catholic partner is perhaps best left for village gossip.

croatia_nedelisce_crkva.jpgAn older image of the church in Nedelišće © TZ Nedelišće

In a heartfelt letter Ciglar penned to his flock, which was read aloud at Mass last Sunday, he asked for their forgiveness. The Nedelisce parishioners seem uniform in their understanding of the situation.

“I wasn't surprised when the letter was read,” one is quoted as saying in 24 Sata. “We'd seen something happen between him and that girl before. That's no small thing with us. Still, we were all kind of rooting for their love story.”

The local diocese is in the process of assigning another young priest to the parish. It is unlikely that the new priest will be similarly tempted from his path, but, you never know. This is not the first time it has happened. A similar case was recorded in Nedelišće forty years ago when a priest left the service out of love for a woman.

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Sunday, 3 May 2020

Croatia's Catholics Return to Mass After 44 Days of Isolation

May 3, 2020 — Instead of holy water, the Catholic faithful at Zagreb's Our Lady of Lourdes Church used hand sanitizer.

"It is great to be here again," said Ana, a doctor, smiling as she entered according to Jutarnji List.

It's Saturday morning, ten minutes before 7 and 44 days since the last mass which the faithful were allowed to attend.

What will it all look like? Will it be crowded? Will the believers stick to the directions? Will there be a handshake in peace, communion at the mouth? Will there be social distancing, discipline? And will the priest put a mask on his mouth when he shares Communion?

There were 33 attendees at the mass, even though the church can accommodate a significantly larger number of believers. Some expected the turnout to be somewhat higher after 44 days of exile. But the epidemic and ban on public gatherings and listening to holy masses online on various social networks and platforms have done enough to break some habits.

"We broke the ice," two retirees said after the mass. "Many may not have been clear enough about how this would work, but it was all very organized and laid-back. Disciplined."

And, at least as far as this parish community is concerned, so it was. Instead of being blessed with water, the believers crossed themselves with their hands, which had been washed with disinfectant just before.

In this church, led by the Franciscans of Split, there were three tables in front of the entrance, with a disinfectant, and signs glued to the columns, on which the instructions to the faithful are very clearly given. 

For those who do not know, the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes can accommodate at least 300 believers. Probably more. The church itself has about 70 benches that are arranged in three rows.

But this Saturday morning, the space is properly tidy. Every other bench is surrounded by a string, so every believer gets their own bench. Two meters of space.

Some wore protective masks over the mouth during mass, some wore gloves and others nothing. Also, there were no prayer cards or songbooks on the benches.

Before Mass began, priests offered confession, using the Spiritual Book Room as a confessional. The door was open, with directions greeting anyone who entered.

Even before confession, a disinfectant must be applied to hands, combining the medical and spiritual. Masks must be donned. If you don't have one, they are laid on a chair in the confessional itself. The priest is three meters away from the kneeling pole. There is no long spiritual discussion about sins. Only penance, a prayer of remorse, and forgiveness.

"Leave the room door open when exiting the confessional," the instructions at the confessional's exit say.

Mass itself had no sermons. Believers did not extend a hand for peace, and the priest gave instructions on how to behave. Before communion itself, he moved away shortly from the altar, disinfected his own hands, and put a mask around his mouth.

- First, communion goes the middle order. You go to the right, receive Communion on your hands and return to your benches on the left. Then goes the left row, then the right. Keep a distance,” he said.

And the people, probably used to the instructions they received from the national Civil Protection Directorate, listened. They even exited the church on the right side of the stairs. Disciplined.

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Easing of Measures for Religious Services Doesn't Mean Less Caution

ZAGREB, May 2, 2020 - The head of the Croatian Bishops' Conference, Zadar Archbishop Želimir Puljić, on Friday expressed satisfaction with the relaxation of some restrictive measures for religious services involving worshippers.

He, however, warned that making the measures less stringent does not mean that participants in the services should be less alert to the threat of the spread of the virus.

On Thursday, the bishops of the Croatian Conference of Bishops issued a letter to priests and the faithful on the conducting of Masses and other liturgical celebrations during the COVID-19 epidemic, which stated, among other things, that each bishop would adopt specific provisions for his diocese, based upon the recommendations of the Croatian Institute of Public Health, the Croatian Catholic news agency IKA reported.

"In regard to the prevention of contagion, caution and the safeguarding of human health, we, the bishops of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, urge all of you, dear brother priests and all of you, dear faithful, to continue to adhere to the recommendations of the Croatian Institute of Public Health on physical distancing, enhanced personal hygiene, enhanced cleaning and disinfection of common areas, and monitoring personal health, which will be published and concern church premises and religious gatherings. This is a matter of expert opinions and recommendations, which must be taken seriously by all of us, respected and conscientiously followed," the bishops say.

Thanking all those who have cared and continue to care for the health of our citizens, the bishops thanked priests and the faithful, "for having responsibly accepted and complied with the Directives of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, issued on March 19, 2020, with regard to the prevention of the spread of COVID-19."

"With your discipline and sacrifice, you have demonstrated Christian responsibility for the common good and helped prevent the pandemic from spreading to more people in Croatia, in order to avoid overburdening the health care system and prevent greater suffering and dying, unlike the case in some other countries," said the bishops.

On Friday, Archbishop Puljić called on the faithful to adhere to preventive measures.

For instance, during the sacrament of confession, priests and believers are supposed to wear protective masks.

Also believers with symptoms such as cough and a higher body temperature are advised to refrain from attending Masses in places of worship

More news about the Catholic Church can be found in the Politics section.

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