Thursday, 6 January 2022

Bogojavljenje (Epiphany) - Three Kings Day in Croatia

January 6, 2022 – Thursday 6 January is Bogojavljenje (Epiphany). Three Kings Day in Croatia is a national holiday. It is also a day marked by its own historic and very distinct traditions.

With the fireworks of New Year's Eve almost one week behind us, Christmas already feels like it was quite a while ago. But, with church bells ringing out across the land, Three Kings Day arrives on 6 January to remind us in Croatia that we're not quite finished yet.

Commonly known as Bogojavljenje (Epiphany), Three Kings Day is highly significant in the Catholic calendar. It is also a day of limited but extremely distinct tradition in Croatia. Understanding these traditions requires a comprehension of some Bible scriptures. More so, perhaps, than the traditions of any other feast or celebration days connected to Christmas.

What is Bogojavljenje (Epiphany) - Three Kings Day in Croatia?

1305px-7222_Adoración_de_los_Reyes_Magos_1.jpgAdoration of the Magi by El Greco

January 6 is celebrated in the Catholic church as both Epiphany and the day of the Three Kings. Epiphany is the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to those outside Judaism. Three Kings Day is when the three kings – otherwise known as Magi or the three wise men - visit the newly-born Jesus and present gifts to him.

These could look like two different celebrations that just happen on the same day. But, in fact, they are not at all separate. Although, their connection does take some explaining. And the traditions the day creates in Croatia takes even more explaining.

Who are the Three Kings aka the Three Magi?

ephinnn.jpgThe Magi, celebrated on Three Kings Day in Croatia

If you've seen a nativity scene or any Christian art related to Christmas, you'll be familiar with the image of the Three Kings. But, actually, they are not in the Bible. What the Bible says is, Magi arrive in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus's birth. They ask the location of the 'king of the Jews' so they can pay tribute. No number is allocated to the Magi.

However, the Bible details that the Magi carry with them three gifts for Jesus – frankincense, gold and myrrh. It is from this number of gifts that the embellished western tradition presumes the number of Magi. In the eastern church, the number of Magi is actually set at 12!

Their number is not the only way their story has been enhanced. Over the years, the Magi have been given very different places of origin. In some of the first embellishments, the kings are said to represent lands of Arabia, Persia and India. But, as Christianity spread, the story changed – perhaps to be either more inclusive or reflect self-importance. Later versions have the kings representing Asia, Africa and Europe. The Bible actually says all three arrive from the east (Africa and Europe are obviously not east of Judea.)

From the 8th century we find the first evidence of the Three Kings being given names - Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar (or Casper). In the Bible, the Magi follow a star to reach Jerusalem at the time of Jesus birth. But, they stop and ask directions. Three Kings Day is when they finally arrive to pay tribute to Jesus.

In our celebration of Christmas, this is 12 days after the birth of Jesus Christ. And yet, in every nativity and Christmas painting, shepherds attend the scene immediately after Jesus's birth, closely followed by the Three Kings. To understand what is happening with the Three Kings and the Epiphany you need to look at the Gospel according to Matthew.

Understanding the Gospel according to Matthew

2102px-The_Calling_of_Saint_Matthew-Caravaggo_1599-1600_1.jpgThe Calling of St Matthew by Caravaggio

The first three books of the New Testament are Matthew, Mark and Luke. When originally written, they were not intended to be placed next to each other in a single compiled 'book'. And so, within the first three books of the New Testament, we find quite a lot of repetition, as each of these disciples recounts the life and story of Jesus.

The Gospel according to Matthew is arguably the most famous and most detailed of these books. As an example, it is the only book where we are told about the Magi visiting Jerusalem and Jesus. It is also the most Jewish of the Gospels - in structure and in language (it is originally written in Greek).

1627px-Roberts_Siege_and_Destruction_of_Jerusalem_1.jpgThe Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, by David Roberts

The books of both Luke and Matthew take from the book of Mark, which is widely considered to have been written first. Most scholars today agree that Matthew was written sometime between AD70 and AD100, not by Matthew himself, but by his followers. If accurately dated, the book is written within recent memory of the destruction of Jerusalem and its Jewish temple by the Romans in AD70.

AnyConv.com__1620px-NinthAvStonesWesternWall_1.jpgStones from the Western Wall of the Temple Mount (Jerusalem) thrown onto the street by Roman soldiers in AD70

In the lifetime of Jesus, His ministry was limited to the land of Judea. Thereafter, the ministry of Matthew was similarly aimed towards Jews. The Gospel according to Matthew begins by carefully detailing Jesus as a descendant of David and Abraham. This is necessary in order for Jesus to be the Messiah spoken of in Jewish prophecy.

Several times in the gospel, Matthew is critical of Jewish Pharisees. But, he is not trying to replace Judaism with a new religion. Instead, he says Jesus is fulfilling Jewish prophecy. He instructs that Jewish scriptures should be more closely adhered to by the followers of Jesus (than they had been by 'hypocritical' Pharisees).

And yet, at the time it was written, a certain separation must have existed between Matthew's followers and many Jews simply because Matthew's followers insisted Jesus was the Messiah. The Gospel ends with the resurrected Jesus instructing “go and make disciples of all the nations". Therefore, Matthew pre-empts the spread of the faith and stands as a bridge between Judaism and the new church. No doubt, this is part of the reason Matthew is the first book of the New Testament instead of the earlier Gospel of Mark.

That the kings come to pay tribute to Jesus in Matthew further fulfils Jewish messianic prophecy. It also positions Jesus as the Son of God for gentiles (non-Jews).

Blagoslov obitelji (family blessing) and the traditions of Epiphany (Bogojavljenje) Three Kings Day in Croatia (Sveta tri kralja)

Dusko_JaramazPIXSELL.jpgBogojavljenje aka Three Kings Day in Croatia, by Dusko JaramazPIXSELL

Traditionally, this is the day on which your local priest would visit your home to bless it and the family within. Nowadays, Croatia's population has grown so as to make this impossible. So, in the modern era, the annual blessing of home and family take place between St. Stephen's day (here) and today.

1281px-Sternsinger_Waldkirch_2014_1_1.jpgZvjezdari in Germany, by James Steakley

This is still a day of Christmas, celebration and decoration. Traditionally, the priest may have been accompanied by altar boys who rang bells to let villagers know they were on their way. These days, the altar boys could be choristers or simply young parishioners. It is not uncommon for them to sing and to be dressed as the Three Kings and carrying a star (Zvjezdari – starmen).

IMG-20220103-WA0001.jpgCollection of stickers marking Blagoslov obitelji (family blessing), awarded on Three Kings Day in Croatia. Note the different spelling of Saint Gaspar (Croatian) / Caspar (Latin)

As part of the home blessing, it was traditional for the priest to sprinkle the home with Holy water. Also, he would write in chalk above the main entrance to the home. The chalked pattern would read 20 ✝ C ✝ M ✝ B ✝ 22 - numbers denoting the year, and the cross separating the letters C (G), M and B. These are the initials of the Magi Caspar (Gaspar), Melchior and Balthazar. They are also an abbreviation of the Latin blessing Christus mansionem benedicat - May Christ bless this house. This chalking of the door signals the home has been blessed for the year and echoes the Old Testament marking of doorways by the Israelites in Egypt. As in Matthew, the tradition of Three Kings bridges Judaism and the new church. Nowadays, the chalk writing has in most instances been replaced by stickers.

IMG-20220103-WA0000.jpgCollection of stickers marking Blagoslov obitelji (family blessing) - these will be added to on Three Kings Day in Croatia

In the distant past of Three Kings visits, a greater significance was put on the blessing of the home and property. But, in order to diminish the supernatural aspect of 'warding off bad spirits from the home', the church has continuously aimed to make the blessing more about the family gathered within. These days, that is reflected in the contemporary wording of the blessing.

This family aspect of the blessing actually goes back an incredibly long way. This time of year is one of the least demanding for those who work in farming or agriculture. It was easier to gather together the full family for the blessing at this time than at almost any other during the year. This tradition still exists – it is customary for the full family to be gathered together when the priest visits.

Another tradition that persists is the cleaning of the home prior to the visit. Although, this is not only because the priest is coming. Remember, Bogojavljenje is Jesus's revelation as the Son of God to all those outside Judea and Judaism – as represented by the Three Kings.

The Three Kings give the gifts of frankincense (signifying his origin from God), gold (signifying his royal status on earth) and myrrh (a balm, signifying that Jesus is a man). The cleaning and blessing of the home welcomes Jesus into Croatian home – as a man he walks among us.

In the modern era, it is customary for the family to give a monetary donation to the priest at the time of the visit. This is not traditional nor is it 'payment' for the blessing or visit. God's blessing cannot be bought or paid for, and is not denied to anyone who asks for it - whether he had money or not. That the traditional annual donation takes place on this visit is a matter of convenience.

Non-Croatian traditions of Epiphany (Bogojavljenje) Three Kings Day in Croatia (Sveta tri kralja)

1521px-Christmas_tree_recycling_1.jpgChristmas tree recycling, by Ruff tuff cream puff

Bogojavljenje is one of the oldest Christian holidays marked in the Croatian Catholic calendar. The fact the day remains a national holiday in Croatia attests to its continued importance.

The laziest and most incorrect contemporary 'custom' attributed Croatian Bogojavljenje is that it's the day you should throw out your Christmas tree and take down your decorations. Wrong. The second biggest modern error is to regard Bogojavljenje as the end of Christmas.

The Christmas tree is not a traditional part of Croatian Christmas. It is German. Its widespread popularity only really began from around 1850 in the UK (thanks to their German monarchy importing it) and from 1870 in the USA. Only after that did the custom travel internationally. To regard the discarding of Christmas trees as a fundamental part of a centuries-old tradition displays an extremely limited and shallow knowledge of Croatian traditions.

In fact, it is Croatian tradition for the local priest to visit the family with the home still decorated. Typically, the priest was fully embraced into the family Christmas setting when he called – jaslice (nativity), candles, log fire, decorations and all. In the past, the priest was usually offered food and drink from the family. In many instances, they would all enjoy the seasonal food together.

baptism-of-christ-gfbc10ab34_1920_1.jpgBaptism of Christ, by Leonardo DaVinci

Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve (here). Christmas begins in the evening of Christmas Eve. Like elsewhere, Epiphanytide begins on Three Kings Day in Croatia. But, that does not mark the end of Christmas. In fact for Catholics, Christmas ends officially on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, celebrated on the Sunday after Epiphany - Three Kings Day in Croatia (in 2022, Sunday 9 January).

Accordingly, the most traditional of Catholic houses and churches in Croatia can be seen displaying their decorations until then. Three Kings does mark the end of the '12 Days of Christmas', but this is a secular duration of Christmas and has little to do with Croatian tradition.

With grateful thanks to Iris Ćelić, family Kutleša / Marinić, Pater Ivan Dominik Ilicic and Marko Čurković

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Enjoy the Holiday Magic in Opatija With a 360° Virtual Walk

Take a virtual walk around Opatija in its holiday gear, from enchanting parks and iconic hotels to the famous seaside promenade lungomare

Although Christmas has passed, cities all over Croatia continue to don their holiday gear for another week or so. While most Advent programmes typically last through the first week of the year, come January 1st, they somehow just don’t feel the same anymore.

That being said, the next few days leading up to New Year’s Eve are a perfect opportunity to enjoy the festive atmosphere in town while the lights and decorations are still up. 

Don’t fancy mingling with crowds (or getting off the couch) these days? We get you - thankfully, there’s a way to stroll around town without having to leave the comfort of your own home. 

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Screenshot of Opatija Advent page, photo © Rajko Mrvos

Today, we present to you a lovely virtual tour of Opatija, the historic town on the coast of Kvarner Bay. Created by Rajko Mrvos in collaboration with Opatija Tourist Board, the 360° tour is composed of 30 panoramic photos showcasing the town in all its glamorous holiday glory

Set to a festive musical backdrop, the tour will take you from Opatija’s enchanting parks and iconic hotels to the famous seaside promenade lungomare. You can toggle between daytime and nighttime panoramas, or take a walk with 360 VR video footage:

Head to the Opatija Advent page to enjoy the splendid landscapes, and check out Rajko Mrvos's ZooM Studio Youtube Channel for more virtual tours of Croatia. 

 

Want to learn more about Opatija? Look no further than our Total Croatia guide Opatija in a page

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Croats, Germans and Slovenes Make Up Croatian Christmas Tourism Numbers

December the 28th, 2021 - Croatian Christmas tourism figures have been dominated by Croatian tourists exploring the rest of the country, Slovenian visitors and of course, the always faithful Germans.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes, along with the Slovenes and Germans, Croats exploring their own country have so far been the most numerous guests staying across the Republic of Croatia during the Christmas and New Year holidays, according to the latest sales statistics of Croatia Luxury Rent.

In terms of Croatian Christmas tourism numbers, these are followed by Austrians, Italians, Hungarians, Poles and Serbs, and in addition to the above markets, guests from France, Switzerland and neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina are also quite numerous in the country at this moment in time.

As they announced, they are especially happy that the number of domestic guests is systematically growing from year to year and that "Croats along with Germans and Slovenes will make up the largest number of guests who will stay in Croatia over 2021's festive period.''

"Croatian guests topped the list of the most numerous guests during last year's festive period, which was to be expected due to the situation and the events caused by the coronavirus pandemic at the time. This festive season, due to somewhat more liberal measures and the possibility of crossing borders much more easily, the situation has changed somewhat, so, along with the Croats, German tourists are the most numerous in CLR accommodation units, while the Slovenes are in third place,'' they explained when looking at their Croatian Christmas tourism figures.

This year's sale of festive tourism arrangements has given rise to a very specific situation according to which, according to them, Central Dalmatia has almost equated the percentage of the number of arrangements sold up north in Istria. However, in the last ten days, things have returned to their earlier standards.

"Istria is at the top with an almost 45 percent share in the total number of reservations sold, followed by Dalmatia and the islands with 29 percent, Kvarner with 18 percent, and the continental part of the country, which accounts for 8 percent,'' according to the CLR.

For more, check out our dedicated travel section.

Wednesday, 22 December 2021

How to Make Traditional Christmas Cookies, Level: Beginner

What happens when a beginner baker attempts to make traditional Christmas cookies? A lighthearted personal blog to document a slightly chaotic evening of holiday baking

Christmas snuck up on me this year. It’s the first holiday season in four years that I’m spending with my family, and I couldn’t be more overjoyed - looking forward to our traditional chaos of decorating the tree on Christmas Eve and gobbling up bakalar like there’s no tomorrow. I even managed to buy most presents on time, but there’s one thing I forgot: Christmas cookies!

Save for helping my mom with holiday baking while I was growing up, I’ve never really tried my hand at making my own Christmas (or any other) cookies. I’m sure this comes easy to a lot of people, but I shy away from working with any kind of dough (especially if yeast is involved - rest assured I did not partake in the bread-baking obsession at the start of the pandemic). This Christmas, however, I’ve been feeling ambitious and picked a few recipes to try out. I was even sensible enough to stock up on all the ingredients I’d need.

And then I forgot to plan for the actual baking part. The holiday schedule got hectic as it tends to do, and last night I realised Christmas is a few days away and I’d have no time for any baking shenanigans after the 22nd… So I thought to myself, let’s just make one kind of cookie. One, and I’d consider this holiday season a success. My amazing mom’s going rampant with holiday baking as usual so we won’t be facing a shortage of sweets any time soon - here’s her baking list for the next two days, featuring a few Croatian holiday hits:

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Are the crossed out ones those you’ve already made? I asked.
Nope, those are the ones I’ve given up on, she said.

Still, there’ll be plenty to go around, and so I got back to the single thing on my to-do list. Should be enough to save face, if all goes well. I rolled up my sleeves and got to work - chaotic, messy work heavily relying on improvisation.

You’ve surely seen your share of dreamy food blogs with perfectly styled photos and a highly skilled baker behind the scenes. This is not one of those blogs. While I consider myself a decent home cook, I wouldn't last two hours on the set of The Great British Bake-Off… but I’m not going to let that stop me. After all, it’s the holiday spirit that matters! Join me as I (attempt to) make linzer cookies, a Christmas staple in Croatia. 

Linzer are buttery sandwich cookies filled with jam of your choice. I don’t remember a holiday season without an ungodly amount of linzer cookies in our pantry. It’s one of those things that taste better the longer you let them rest, so it’s prudent to plan ahead and double or triple the recipe to make sure you don’t run out before the season is through.

Out with the ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, vanilla sugar, lemon zest, butter and egg.

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Extremely satisfying.

The recipe says to 'combine all ingredients to make a dough'. This means nothing to me. Combine them in what order? Isn’t baking a precise art? It was too late in the day to call mama for instructions, so I did some googling and found out there seemingly was no single right way to start off. Some say to cream butter and sugar with a mixer until fluffy and then add the other ingredients, some opt to combine the dry ones first and then cut in the butter.

At past 11pm, I don’t think my neighbours would enjoy the first option, so I skipped the mixer. In with the butter! A bit of elbow grease later, what wasn’t looking promising at first quickly turned into nice smooth dough. We actually might be getting somewhere:

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I popped the dough in the fridge to rest and went to prep the stuff I’d need for the next step. Thankfully, I recently bought a proper rolling pin - the last time I needed to roll out something, I ended up using an empty bottle of ginger ale. It was a nice glass bottle. It did the trick. I'm happy to have the rolling pin anyway.

However, I realised I'd overlooked a few crucial things in regards to the linzer project. One, I have a single baking tray, which isn’t a fun prospect knowing you’ll have at least 5-6 six trays’ worth of cookies to bake. Two, while I did pick up some festive snowflake-shaped cookie cutters, I forgot that linzer cookies feature a cutout in the top layer for the jam to peek through. Do I have anything at home to punch a hole in my cookies?

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I fumbled through my kitchen drawers and found a metal tea strainer. This will do for the bigger cookies, what about the smaller ones? Too bad I don’t have a thimble, the reliable hole-punching tool that I've more often seen used in baking than sewing.

What I do have is a well stocked bar, so I snagged a tiny metal cap off of a mini bottle of Austrian schnapps. Consider this a nice homage to the Austrian origin of linzer cookies.

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I promise these were not so ghostly pale in real life. 

Not the most elegant solution, but needs must. It’s not too late to turn away, dear reader, because things only get more crafty from this point on.

The snowflake cookies turned out a bit difficult to handle due to their specific shape, and I wanted to make a batch of simple round cookies as well. You’ve guessed - no round cookie cutters in the household, but I learned a wine glass does the trick quite nicely:

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A little test run - seems to work. 

At this point, it’s 1am and I’m questioning my life choices. The last batch is in the oven and I still have the final step to complete: warm up some jam on the stove and assemble the little linzer sandwiches. The jam firms up as it cools down, acting like glue that ensures the cookies stick together and stay in place.

Let’s not forget some dramatic flair, a holiday-themed reenactment of Scarface with a mountain of powdered sugar covering every inch of my kitchen counters. Luckily I remembered to generously dust the top cookies with sugar before assembly, so that the jam peeking through the cutout remains nice and glossy. It’s a lovely pop of colour that gives linzer cookies their distinctive appearance. Success!

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I've a talent for food photography as well.

A little uneven, but delicious - I was surprised how decent they turned out considering I MacGyvered my way through the whole affair. I have a bite to make sure they’re fine to serve to others, and I feel that unmistakable taste of the holiday season.

Oh, and a final tip. To ensure that people in your household don’t break into your stash of cookies too soon, store them where noone will think to look - in the sewing tin ;)

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Wishing you a wonderful holiday season full of delicious treats. Happy Christmas!

Friday, 10 December 2021

Osijek Christmas Tram Is the Brightest Tram in Croatia

December 10, 2021 - The Osijek Christmas tram ride is a unique Advent experience in the Slavonian metropolis. This year, there are two appropriately decorated trams on the regular line that you can catch every day and experience an unforgettable Advent ride through the city on the Drava, which began in 2011.

Recognizable, traditional, the brightest tram in Croatia, the Osijek Christmas tram is visited by almost 15,000 people in the season, and this year it shone in full glory, reports Turističke Priče.

You can find the schedule of the holiday tram at this LINK.

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Photo: Osijek Tourist Board/Facebook

The size of a city is not defined by the number of kilometers or the number of inhabitants but is measured by the size of the heart, the strength of the spirit, the kindness of the people. Osijek has long been said to be a "city made to measure" and is big enough to fulfill your needs, desires, dreams and small enough to feel safe, comfortable, and intimate. Big enough to organize the longest walk around the city, small enough to adapt the concept of the Advent celebration to the current situation in a short time.

The senses conceived their Advent through the concept "it is not standing but moving, and it is not a place but a journey". Advent, conceived as a movement around holiday-decorated locations, revived Osijek, showed the character and spirit of Osijek, and revived memories of other times when daily walks and full streets were the main motives for good fun in Osijek for all generations.

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Photo: Osijek Tourist Board/Facebook

And the only real success of Advent is happy and smiling people.  Positive emotions, sparkle in the eyes, gratitude, togetherness, which is not lacking in the Slavonian metropolis, which lives 354 days a year with full lungs.

If you want to learn more about the breathtaking capital of Slavonia, be sure to check Total Croatia's Osijek in a Page here.

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

5 Art Markets for Unique Gift Shopping This December

Holiday shoppers in search of unique gifts have plenty to look forward to in December. Looking to shop local this Christmas? Here are five art markets that are taking place in Croatia in the next few weeks

Several art markets will be popping up all over Croatia in the next few weeks, featuring local artists, artisans and other creatives. Have a look at our list, and in case one of these fairs is taking place in your area, go give the talented makers some love!

 

Christmas artBazaar 2021 (Rijeka)

After a two year break, the Christmas edition of the artBazaar market is back in Rijeka!

artBazaar is an urban market project aiming to promote local brands and artists who create high-quality handmade products. The market typically takes place in Rijeka twice a year, in spring and at Christmas time, and has already had over 20 instalments.

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Participating artists

This year, we’ll see 25 artists and brands present their work at the artBazaar market at a unique location: the Children’s House, a wonderful centre built purposely to host events and activities intended for kids. It’s a place beaming with good vibes and creative energy, and as such a perfect location for a craft fair! Of course, visitors of all ages are welcome to the artBazaar which is taking place for three days on the weekend before Christmas.

The event is part of the week-long Winter Story at Benčić programme that will also see music shows, theatre plays, film screenings and other attractive events between December 13th and 19th.

Date: December 17th - 19th
Working hours: 12pm to 8pm
Location: Dječja kuća (Children’s House), Art quarter Benčić
Address: Ul. Nikole Tesle, Rijeka

Click here for the Facebook event.

 

HUSH HUSH Christmas Market (Zagreb)

The HUSH HUSH art market is back this Christmas, gathering designers and artists who’ll display their new collections and products in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb.

Stop by the museum this weekend and browse a range of beautiful products that are locally manufactured and largely handmade. The makers will be displaying jewelry, clothes and accessories, home decor, ceramics and even plants! Plenty to choose from and definitely a good place to check off a few presents from your Christmas shopping list.

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Date: December 11th - 12th
Working hours: 11am to 7 pm
Location: Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb
Address: Avenija Dubrovnik 17, Zagreb

Click here for the Facebook event.

 

Creative collective MADE BY: (Zagreb)

The creative collective MADE BY: brings together artists, designers and manufacturers of handmade products. Some artists and brands are featured at their virtual fair (check out the site and the webshop here), but they also have an opportunity to take part in a creative fair which will have its 5th instalment this December.

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Forty creatives from Croatia and the region will be showcasing their products at the MADE BY: creative fair. The event will take place the weekend before Christmas at the seat of the Croatian Journalists’ Association, a beautiful landmark in downtown Zagreb.

Date: December 17th - 18th
Working hours: 10am to 8pm
Location: Novinarski dom
Address: Perkovčeva 2, Zagreb

Click here for the Facebook event.


Q’ARTY PARTY by Project Ilica (Zagreb)

Ilica street in Zagreb will be turning into a lively open market on December 19th for the winter edition of the popular Q’ARTY PARTY event.

Apart from numerous creatives who’ll be presenting their unique products, the fair will see students of the Academy of Art in Zagreb displaying and selling their artwork - Cash and Carry is the way to go.

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This year’s event will feature a sweet corner with cakes, pastry and sweets for visitors to enjoy in case they find themselves in need of a little pick-me-up.

Project Ilica: Q’Art is a collective public art project bringing together artists and the community and exploring urban culture. It was first conceived in 2000 and named Community Art, and has been taking place in the current form since 2016.

Date: December 19th
Working hours: 10 am to 2:30 pm
Location: outdoors on Ilica street!

 

ReArt Festival, Winter Edition (Osijek)

We’re heading to eastern Croatia for the last craft fair on our list! The ReArt Festival will feature more than 20 creative brands based in Osijek and the region.

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You can browse and buy lovely handmade products and artworks, including visual art, decor and souvenirs, toys, natural cosmetics, clothes and fashion accessories, and much more. Don’t hesitate to stop and chat with the artists - they’re always happy to share their story and tell you more about their work.

ReArt Festival is taking place on December 18th at the Cultural Centre Osijek. Apart from the art market, the event will include several workshops and end with a bang: a Christmas jumper afterparty featuring an exhibition and a live gig of the bands Svemirko and Čuvarkuća.

reart2.jpgParticipating artists 

Date: December 18th
Working hours: 9am to 7pm
Location: Kulturni Centar Osijek (Cultural Centre Osijek)
Address: Ulica Kneza Trpimira 2/a, Osijek

Click here for the Facebook event.

 

A valid digital EU Covid certificate is needed to attend all events on this list.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Holiday Gift Guide: 10 Croatian Brands for Your Christmas Shopping Inspiration

The season of gift-giving is upon us! We bring you a list of ideas for unique Christmas gifts to inspire you to shop local and support small Croatian businesses

How’s that Christmas shopping list going? This holiday season, we encourage you to skip the big retailers and e-commerce giants in favour of supporting small local businesses run by creative, talented and passionate people.

We’ve put together a list of 10 ideas to kickstart your holiday gift-giving, featuring Croatian brands and their amazing products that would make perfect gifts for your loved ones.

Think of this list as a starting point: once you start following any of these creatives on social media, you’ll quickly discover other entrepreneurs, artists and manufacturers showcasing their work and supporting each other in the online space. As far as rabbit holes go, this is quite a lovely one to go down, and we guarantee you’ll find plenty of inspiration along the way.

 

naOtoku jewelry

naOtoku is a jewelry brand whose name literally translates to ‘on the island’, pointing to the main source of inspiration for its owner Petra Markusović. While the artist is based in Zagreb these days, she originally comes from Brač island which she calls ‘a place of peace, relaxation and endless inspiration’.

This is clearly reflected in her gorgeous jewelry. It’s not only aesthetically evocative of nature, the sea and island landscapes, but quite literally contains them. Petra collects pebbles, sea glass and other bits washed ashore, then cradles them in silver and brass to transform them into unique earrings, rings and necklace pendants.

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Beautifully designed and expertly crafted, naOtoku creations are statement pieces and conversation starters - whoever wears them is sure to get asked where they got those every once in a while. You can follow naOtoku on Facebook and Instagram - and good luck trying to settle on just one favourite piece.

 

Love around the world by Anđela & Davor Rostuhar

What do a pair of world travelers do for their honeymoon? They sure don’t go to Paris for a week. Anđela and Davor Rostuhar, a Croatian couple known for their love of adventure and awe-inspiring expeditions, got married in 2018 and then launched quite a special project. They travelled the world for an entire year, interviewing couples of all ages and backgrounds to explore what love means in every corner of our planet.

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The project resulted in a poignant documentary film and a beautiful book sharing the same name, Love around the world. As described on their site, the book is ‘an intimate essay, a travel diary and an ethnographic study’, and we think a book about love would make a perfect gift this holiday season.

You can learn more about the project and purchase the book (in Croatian or English) on their website.

 

Chia Cups Studio

Chia Cups are one of those brands that are instantly recognizable from a single product: in their case, a beautiful white ceramic mug covered in black polka dots with the handle painted gold.

They’re so popular, there’s no shortage of copycats out there trying to imitate the famed design. And while the pattern itself is a classic you can’t exactly patent, it’s easy to spot the superior product in the bunch: Chia Cups are handmade, hand painted, glazed to glossy perfection and presented in style by their makers Filipa and Antun.

They’re about to launch their annual holiday collection on their website, so keep an eye out for festive designs featuring timeless Christmas motifs. And if you’re considering getting one as a gift, don’t wait too long: since all the cups are handmade, they are only manufactured in small quantities which typically sell out at the speed of light.

Check out the webshop here and follow Chia Cups on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Croatian Classics by Andrea Pisac

Few things have the ability to inspire, provide comfort and get people together like food does, and there's no better time to gather around the table and enjoy a traditional meal than the holiday season. Andrea Pisac of Croatia Honestly recently came out with a cookbook named Croatian Classics, featuring 100 recipes for savoury dishes originating from all parts of the country.

The recipes are grouped into themed chapters - not by region, ingredients or courses, but a set of Croatian-specific phrases that describe both the cooking method and the essence of a certain dish. Tell any Croatian to name a few meals ‘na žlicu’ (by the spoon) or ‘za dušu’ (for the soul), and you’ll probably find them all in this cookbook.

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Image © Croatia Honestly / Andrea Pisac

The book is written in English, features hundreds of colour photos and detailed step by step instructions, and the ingredients are listed in metric and imperial measurements. It’s a great gift for any recipient: based in Croatia or diaspora, novices or experienced home cooks, everyone is sure to enjoy delving into this book. Whether you want to tackle our national cuisine or perhaps wish to reconnect with your roots, the Croatian Classics cookbook is a great way to start exploring the traditional Croatian gastronomy. If you want to go all out, pair it with Andrea’s first cookbook, Croatian Desserts.

The cookbook is available for purchase in the Croatia Honestly webshop.

aDORAble

Speaking about food… Let's add a dash of unique flavour to our list. Meet aDORAble, a family-run agricultural business known for organic products of outstanding quality that will take your cooking to the next level.

They make wonderful jams and hot sauces, but they’re best known for their flavoured salts. Hand-harvested in Nin, the coarse sea salt is combined with Mediterranean herbs and other organically grown ingredients such as dried fruit, vegetables, mushrooms - and even red wine! This results in over a dozen flavour combinations, varying from lemon or basil to more complex mixtures such as orange, rosemary and thyme or tangerine and fig leaf. aDORAble control every step of the production process and grow the majority of ingredients themselves.

adorable.jpgA nice combo of Mediterranean herbs, chilli and lemon. Image © aDORAble 

All aDORAble products can be purchased individually, but they also sell gift boxes that anyone who loves to cook would be happy to find under the Christmas tree. Check out their shop here - international shipping is also available upon request.

 

Take tha break

Why yes, we'll gladly take a break. This design brand specializes in stylish home decor and accessories made of high quality fabrics: pillows, shopping bags, totes, towels, and headbands, to name a few.

Our favourite? Their beach towels, made of waffle cotton that’s highly absorbent and doesn’t shed - the two main features you’d want in this particular item, and yet surprisingly hard to find these days. Aside from checking off all the practical boxes, they come in an assortment of dreamy summery colours and in several sizes; the bigger ones double as throws that will come in handy during those chilly, early-morning ferry rides.

And yes, December might not seem like the best time to gift beach accessories, but in our opinion, it’s never too early to start planning a summer vacation. Fancy something more seasonally appropriate? Their holiday collection is sure to bring some Christmas cheer into your home.

Follow them on Instagram and check out the products in their webshop.

 

Matinata - premium organic skincare

Matinata is a Croatian skincare brand whose name, philosophy and ingredients all stem from Mother Nature. Their line of active organic skincare currently counts six top-notch products, made from botanicals, plant extracts and naturally derived ingredients that have all been proven to have beneficial effects for the skin.

The organic components are carefully sourced worldwide from selected fair trade partners, thoroughly tested in collaboration with the Faculty of Pharmacy in Ljubljana, and then used to manufacture Matinata products in Croatia in small batches. The brand is based on transparency and their website offers a thorough breakdown of ingredients they use (as well as those they don’t), their purpose and benefits for the skin. 

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Image © Matinata skincare

From the exquisite dark glass packaging to the hypercharged formulas, Matinata products feel luxurious and transform a simple daily routine into a cherished ritual. Our favourite: re.glow, a potent nourishing oil serum that restores balance to the skin, looks like liquid amber and has an intoxicating scent that will make you want to bathe in the stuff. (No need; a few drops will suffice.) Not sure which product to go with? Their Discovery set features mini versions of all Matinata products and would make a great gift for anyone looking to explore natural cosmetics. 

Learn more about Matinata on their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram

 

Better Bread by Kroštula: panettone

Okay, panettone isn’t exactly an authentic Croatian thing, but this delicious Italian sweet bread is such a Christmas classic, it’s become a holiday staple in countless Croatian households. While we’re usually happy to go with tried and tested Italian brands, it’s nice to know we have a fantastic local version as well.

This year, skip the imported stuff and try an artisan panettone instead, courtesy of Better Bread by Kroštula. They’ve got the recipe down to a T (not an easy feat, as they like to remind us in their social media posts), resulting in ethereal, fluffy goodness you can basically smell through your screen:

Two versions of panettone are available at the moment (candied fruit and chocolate), with more flavour combinations to follow. It can be purchased in their webshop and in selected stores across Croatia - check the list here and follow Better Bread on Facebook.

 

Bradonja i plava

Bradonja i Plava (the bearded guy and the blonde) are Josip and Maja, two creatives running a lifestyle brand formerly known as Papa Joe design. We love their jewelry and home decor inspired by traditional Croatian lace and recreated in birch wood.

bradonja.plava.jpgYep, that's wood up there on the wall! Image © Bradonja i Plava 

Adorn your walls in intricate designs based on Pag, Hvar and Lepoglava lace; if you’re looking for something on the smaller side, check out their delicate wooden earrings which literally represent small sections of authentic lace patterns.

Follow them on Facebook or Instagram and check out their webshop.

 

Likamee wool

Likamee wool is a small family business producing felted mat rugs out of sheep wool, sourced from the region of Lika and its indigenous Lika Pramenka sheep variety.

likamee.jpgImage © Likamee Wool
An incredible amount of time and work is invested in every single piece, as all Likamee rugs are manufactured entirely by hand. It’s truly a labour of love, resulting in unique, eye-catching home decor which is also animal friendly and sustainably made.

Follow them on Facebook and Instagram, where they also share snippets of the manufacturing process that will make you appreciate their craft all the more.

  

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

When Starts Christmas In Croatia? Decorations Go Up Early Autumn

September 29, 2020 – One surprised shopper couldn't help but laugh and photograph as telltale signs of Christmas in Croatia appeared this week over her local supermarket

As long had been suspected by city residents, it has been officially announced that Zagreb's world-famous Advent celebrations will this year go ahead. Replanned under epidemiological guidelines, kućice (small vending houses), stages and spectacular lights will once again bring the sights, scents, sounds, tastes and cheer of the festive season to the capital this December.

388a6e8be38dfd8ceff1acc856da3b20.jpgAdvent in Zagreb © Julien Duval

In the era of Coronavirus, you might be able to ask people to be a bit quieter on their nights out, but there is absolutely no chance you can hold back Christmas in Croatia.

With Zagreb Advent now lasting for over one month - from the last day of November to the end of January's first week - the festive season is already stretched quite far, perhaps reflecting just how much residents enjoy Christmas in Croatia. But, this year, the marking of Yuletide has started earlier than ever before.

The setting of the late summer sun seems to have been the signal for one supermarket to begin bringing in the Christmas cheer. One surprised shopper couldn't help but laugh and photograph yesterday when she saw that Christmas decorations had already appeared over her local supermarket in Dubrava, east Zagreb. It is only the first week of autumn.

pictureday.jpgIf you are invited into someone's home over Christmas in Croatia, you simply must go - the atmosphere and food are usually fantastic © Pictureday

Christmas in Croatia is an excellent time to visit. Zagreb's Advent has consistently been voted the best of its kind across Europe. The season of goodwill in the country is one where gifts are exchanged, homes visited, feasts shared and superb culture enjoyed. As a Catholic nation with a strong sense of family, it is also a time where religion is observed and when you get to see all of your relatives. Many visitors to Christmas in Croatia are lucky enough to be invited into the home while they are here, and such an opportunity should not be turned down. Being among family members and friends, eating traditional and homecooked Croatian food is an unforgettable Christmas experience. But, there are some rules.

vargazs.jpgReligious tradition is an integral part of Christmas in Croatia. In almost every home, no meat, only fish, is eaten on Christmas Eve © Vargazs

In the UK, it's very common to greet friends across many days of December with “Merry Christmas”. You don't do that in Croatia. If you do, you'll be met with a look that lies anywhere between confusion and concern for your mental health. The greeting of “Merry Christmas” is strictly reserved for Christmas Day itself.

The root of this adherence to tradition is doubtless the acknowledgment that Christmas in Croatia is, above all, a religious festival. Croatians are often more attuned than most to commercialism creeping into what remains a deeply-observed marking of Jesus's birth. Yet, somehow, this most sacred of Catholic holidays manages to comfortably sit, side by side with seasonal celebrations that extend further each year. Although, the first week of autumn as the start of Christmas in Croatia must be the earliest one yet.

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Monday, 16 December 2019

Advent in Ogulin: Fair Prices, Magical Atmosphere and Snow

You've no doubt heard about Advent in Zagreb, the award winning event the Croatian capital puts on every year which earned it an enviable status as the top European Christmas destination for three years running. You've probably also heard about Advent in Dubrovnik and Advent in Split, but what about venturing into Karlovac County and experiencing the much less talked about Advent in Ogulin?

As Novac/Gordana Grgas writes on the 15th of December, 2019, Ogulin's residents have organised a very special Advent in Ogulin manifestation this year, on the honourable topic of ecology. They began the initial preparations back in September, when the Straw Crafts Workshop first began. Twenty participants, for two months under the careful guidance of expert associate Marija Trdić Ćuk, made Christmas cribs of natural materials in their natural size.

Thanks to workshops for making bird houses and Christmas decorations made from bird food, conducted by young people from the Ogulin Ecological Society, the town got the first EDO EKO village for birds while the decorations were set up in the city park as bird food.

Eventually, the whole city seemed to be involved in writing the beautiful Advent in Ogulin story. Workers from the local timber industry, Bjelina, made wooden ornaments for the ice skating rink, and their decorations are on Christmas trees in the city park.

In fact, the vast majority of Advent in Ogulin's content and facilities have been created by Ogulin residents and local companies, and the food and drink on offer comes with a price nobody can really complain about, with certain rakijas which do just the job to warm you up on a cold wintery day coming with price tags of just 11 and 12 kuna.

At the location of Petar Stipetić Square is the Advent calendar installation, consisting of 24 pine trees in jars. Each carries one wish before Christmas: hope, health, happiness, family, home, goodness, faith, peace, honesty, knowledge, smiles, freedom, equality, joy, well-being, equality, understanding, humanity, humility, love, truth and light.

On weekends, the Advent Fair is held in the city park, where school cooperatives, associations and local artisans sell their handicrafts and are joined by their parents.

"Together with their children, they conducted workshops for the Children's Social Entrepreneurship to create Christmas decorations that they sold to raise donations for the Jagor charity, and to show the little ones the importance of being an entrepreneur whose primary goal is social influence, and not profit generation for the owners or shareholders,'' says the director of POU.

They have rightfully called it a fairy-tale advent, believing that it was worthy of the spirit of the tradition of this overlooked yet stunningly beautiful region of Croatia in which the famous Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić was born. While Advent in Zagreb continues to draw most of the crowds from at home and abroad, another, equally festive story is going on with Advent in Ogulin, and there's even some snow.

Make sure to follow our dedicated travel page for much more.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Advent in Pula Gears Up For Festive Season With Changes

As Glas Istre/Borka Petrovic writes on the 8th of November, 2019, the biggest news of this year's "December in Pula" program is the ice skating rink that will move from King Tomislav Square on Veruda to the very city centre. Mayor Boris Miletić justified the moving of the skating rink by claiming that it better adheres to the wishes of local kids and their parents, but also to the desire to bring all activities together in one place and stimulate additional liveliness in the city centre.

The installation of the ice skating rink, measuring 30 times 20 metres, will begin next week, more precisely on November the 13th, and the opening is planned for November the 29th. The rink will be open until January the 6th, 2020.

Traditionally, the first and last day of the ice skating rink's operation will be free of charge for everyone, as well as for all previously announced organised visits of preschool and school institutions.

Because of the ice skating rink of the rink and the turning of Giardini into a pedestrian zone, many changes in traffic regulations and public transport will be introduced in Pula.

Thus, for all traffic, as was the situation with previous years, Giardini will be turned into a pedestrian zone, Laginjina (at the intersection with Smareglinas street and Anticova street) will be closed from November the 13th onwards, and this year, Zagrebačka will be closed at the intersection with Dobricheva ulica, while Zadarska street (from the intersection with Istarska street to the intersection with Dobricheva street) will adopt a one-way system in the direction of Istarska street.

Carrarina is turning into a two-way impasse with the possibility of a semi-circular turn, and the taxi station will be relocated to the site of the current bus stop on Istarska street. All this was explained by Mayor Giordano Škuflić.

Igor Skatar, the director of Pulapromet, explained that the Pula city bus lines that otherwise operated along those sections would be diverted to the nearest surrounding stations, using mostly stops at the city library, Pula Arena and the market, and that changes to these routes would be available to the public on the company's website. The bus times will not change.

Pulaparking director Branislav Bojanić also stated that there will be free parking throughout the month of December.

''After November the 15th, we will be more tolerant of drivers and will allow delays of five or ten minutes until things are settled. But one thing we won't tolerate in December is improper parking and we will be rigorous there,'' Bojanić stressed.

The director of the Pula Film Festival Public Institution, Gordana Restović, emphasised that with the nearby ice rink, the entire site will be surrounded by amenities - as usual, eighteen cottages with various facilities will be located there, as will two stages, a gastro corner and the magic forest for toddlers, and in cooperation with the Visualia Festival, this pedestrian zone will be further enriched by the installation of the "Passage of Wishes" (Prolaz želja), that is, light arches that will extend as far as 50 metres along Giardini street.

As usual, a large stage and more than twenty concerts will be available to enjoy on Portarata, and the traditional New Year's Eve celebrations will be held at the Forum.

Make sure to follow our dedicated travel page for more.

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