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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 


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.


Thursday, 27 May 2021

Pay It Forward, the Croatian Way: 3 Croatian Gift-Giving Rules You Should Follow

May 29, 2021 -  Forrest Gump has famously said that life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you are going to get. Well, if you are Croatian, you do. And you won't get to eat it, either. A humorous look into the Croatian philosophy of gift-giving.

Croatians are, in general, a generous bunch. Although they may seem stand-offish at first, once they accept you as one of their own, there are very few things they would not be prepared to do for you. Thus, there will inevitably come a time when they will make some unexpected gesture that will leave you speechless (in a good way). And you will be so touched that you will want to find the perfect thank-you gift.

Luckily, with the Croatian way of life, the opportunity may present itself sooner than you think. However, the definition of a superb gift depends on the occasion and it changes on a case-by-case basis. 

Occasion #1: Weddings

No one knows how to party quite like Croatians (or that is at least what they believe). The whole thing starts early in the afternoon and ends in the early hours of the morning the next day. Having said that, somewhere in-between dancing, eating, and drinking, around midnight, the celebration comes to a temporary stop. The time has come for the bride and the groom to receive their wedding gifts. You will see friends and relatives starting to walk in single file to the table where the newlyweds sit. And next to them, you will see a white box with a narrow slot, much like a ballot box. One by one, people will approach the table to once again congratulate the couple, exchange hugs and kisses, and then throw in an envelope holding a few euro (not kuna) bills into the abovementioned box. 

See, in Croatia, weddings are not seen as status symbols.

They are important life events you mark by inviting the people you know and love (and sometimes even those you do not know, but your parents do) to share your joy.

Since the choice to organize a wedding does not entirely depend on the couple's ability to cover the costs themselves, the only logical thing you can do to thank them for thinking of you is to provide them with enough cash to foot the bill. The usual rule of thumb is 50 euros per member of the wedding party, as that is an average cost of what Croatians refer to as 'a chair' - meaning the cost of the wedding menu per person, although many venues - i.e. - restaurants - charge more, between 60 and 70 euros. So, if you are bringing a date, that means 50 euros (a bare minimum) times two.

Sometimes people worry that such a gift may seem impersonal, more so if you are especially close to those that have just tied the knot. Would it not be better to just ask them if they have any particular needs or wishes? No, it would not. So, if you are ever invited to a Croatian wedding, go to the nearest bookstore, pick a nice card and stick some money in it. Et voila! 

Occasion #2: Three C's - Christening, (First) Communion, Confirmation

According to the 2011 census, around 80 per cent of the Croatian population consider themselves Catholic, at least on paper. However, religious rites of passage often have less to do with the spiritual aspect of the event and more to do with booking an appropriate venue to mark the event, shopping for new clothes, and buying a cake. It is basically like planning a wedding. The gifts you are supposed to give however slightly differ, depending on your role at the event.

At a christening, the child's godparent is the most important person. Traditionally, they gift their godchild with a piece of jewellery, regardless of the child's sex.  If you are just a regular guest, however, you can get away with a gift of your own choice. The same holds true for the occasion of the First Communion, around the child's 10th birthday.

When the child turns into a teenager, things become a little tricky. Confirmation usually takes place during the spring in the year they turn 14 or 15. This time, the child gets a second godparent, who they usually pick themselves. The rules are clear: if you want to obtain the title of the coolest person in the universe, you must buy your godson a Vespa (which, in reality, they are by law forbidden to drive until they turn 16) or your goddaughter an iPhone (the cost of which is one month's salary of an average Croatian).

Occasion #3: Other

 And finally, we have come to the Holy Grail of gift-giving, the reason this article came about: a bottle of liquor, a can of coffee, and a box of chocolates.

A few weeks ago, as I was organizing the pantry, I got hit by several cans of coffee, falling down from the shelves on me one by one. At first, I could not understand where they have all come from. And then it hit me. We have been living in a lockdown for the past year. There were no spontaneous get-togethers, no neighbours popping in to wish us Merry Christmas or Happy Easter, or unexpected visits from people we have last heard from 5 years ago. Even the plumber was received with a level of fever and suspicion. 

All those coffee cans - we have not bought them. We got them. And not because whoever gave them to us knew we like one particular brand or the other. They were given to us because that is what one does. With the exception of birthdays, these are universal gifts in Croatia. A can of coffee, a bottle of liquor and a bar of chocolate, or, if you want something fancier, a box of chocolates. They will polite smile, say thank you, and pass it on to someone else at the first opportunity.

Every Croatian household has a cabinet designed especially for the purpose of storing such items. They are not to be consumed. I cannot tell you the number of times my eyes lit up at seeing a particular brand of chocolate poking from the bag someone brought.

But, I knew that the moment the door closed, my Croatian grandma will utter the words: Leave it. I will need it for my friend/cousin/doctor. Because that is what you do in Croatia. You bring gifts to your doctor. In the rest of the civilized world, it is called a bribe.

It did not even matter that I was in a different room from her. She appeared next to me the moment the sound of the wrapping paper coming off reached her ears.

 My desire to taste some of those sweets did not wane until I was well out of my teenage years. And it did not matter that I could get a chocolate-like that any time I wanted - we could certainly afford it. Or that I could not just eat it and we could buy another one whenever we needed. I could not go against the tradition.

The origins of this custom of re-gifting perishable items (well, except for the liquor, as it can hold for practically forever) are unknown. In a nation of proud coffee-drinkers, the reason for passing around stale coffee and old chocolate remains just another Croatian mystery. 


the Holy Trinity of gift-giving

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