Non-Christian Croatians do have the right to take the day off of work for their own religious holidays, such as Eid al-Fitr if you’re Muslim or Rosh Hashanah if you’re Jewish.
New Year’s Day (January 1): This is in the middle of a huge festive time of year that falls between Christmas and Epiphany. New Year’s festivities often include live music from folklore groups as well as the top pop and rock groups as well. The party atmosphere seems to be everywhere, and the night always ends with a fantastic fireworks display. If you’re looking for the largest parties, try Zagreb, Dubrovnik, or Split (that’s an awesome name – almost as good as Dent, Minnesota).
Epiphany (January 6): Traditionally, this is the day attributed to when the three kings visited Jesus after he was born. A secondary tradition says it was also the day when John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Because of the gift-giving tradition of the wise men, many countries will also celebrate this day by exchanging gifts on Epiphany as well (or instead of) on Christmas. Also called the Feast of the Three Kings, it marks the end of the Christmas season. Some people partake in a strict fast, so there is a feast in the evening.
Easter and Easter Monday (varies): The Easter celebrations actually start on Palm Sunday and last throughout Holy Week. Many people attend a midnight mass on Holy Saturday and some on Easter morning. Traditional Easter meals include ham with radishes, spring onions, and horseradish (I think my mother would love this.). And there is a traditional yeast bread with fruit in it called a pinca that is always eaten as well. Croatia is also known for its highly decorated Easter eggs called pisanice.
International Worker’s Day (May 1): While it is a day off of work and school for International Worker’s Day, or Labour Day as it’s also called, most of the celebrations are more linked to the older May Day festivals (sometimes also called Walpurgis Night). So, amidst the speeches on the state of labor and discussing labor issues in Croatia by local and national politicians, most of the people are merely out enjoying parades, concerts, and picnics in the name of labor and May Day.
Corpus Christi (varies): This Christian tradition is based on the idea of the body and blood of Jesus and his spirit are in the wine at communion. After the mass, a procession usually takes place through the streets.
Anti-Fascist Struggle Day (June 22): During WWII, Croatia was then part of Yugoslavia and was occupied by both German and Italian forces. In the city of Sisak, the locals organized the First Sisak Partisan Detachment unit as part of the resistance movement to drive the Germans and Italians out. This day is in honor of those who fought and risked their lives in this brave fight for their country.
Statehood Day (June 25): This day marks Croatia’s declaration of independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. At the time, Croatia declared its independence in June 25, but because certain negotiations and agreements, Croatia (along with neighboring Slovenia) had to wait until October 8 to officially gain its sovereignty. Garlands and flowers are traditionally laid on the tombs of fallen soldiers on this day, and there is also a speech by politicians and the president.
Victory Day / Homeland Thanksgiving Day / Day of Croatian Defenders (August 5): This day is to commemorate a decisive victory in the War for Independence. On this day in 1995, the Croatian Army overtook the city of Knin, a city that was the center of a Serbian entity called the Republic of Serbian Krajina. For obvious reasons, the city of Knin holds the largest celebrations, which is marked by the raising of the flag, laying of wreathes on gravesites, and military ceremonies.
Assumption of Mary (August 15): This Catholic feast day celebrates the belief that Mary the virgin mother of Jesus didn’t just die, but was assumed into heaven. There is usually a special mass in her honor held.
Independence Day (October 8): Whereas Statehood Day was the day that Croatia declared its independence, this is the day it was actually granted. Banks, businesses, and schools are closed on this day so that people can celebrate. People drape the flag where it can be seen and decorate their homes and cities with the national colors of red, white, and blue, as well as the red and white checked pattern seen on the shield in the middle of the flag.
All Saint’s Day (November 1): This primarily Catholic feast day is a celebration all the saints. Many saints already have their own feast days, but this holiday especially celebrates the ones who don’t already have their own feast days. There is usually a special mass held on this day. One custom is to visit the graves of passed loved ones and light a candle to place on the grave.
Christmas (December 5): Most of the festivities start on Christmas Eve. Some people put straw underneath the tablecloth for the Christmas Eve dinner. And some families still light a yule log as well. There’s also a tradition of gathering the Christmas Wheat together and tying it with a ribbon, sometimes around a candle (good thing it’s not eaten, probably not gluten-free). Croatians do believe in a Santa Claus figure bringing toys to good kids and puts them underneath the Christmas tree, but some people believe he delivers them on New Year’s Eve. One delicious tradition is the making of licitar hearts: highly-decorated heart-shaped cookies.
St. Stephen’s Day (December 26): Also called the Feast of St. Stephen or the Second Day of Christmas. St. Stephen was recorded as the first martyr of Christianity. Some people celebrate it on December 27. Most people just relax after the Christmas celebrations or go shopping from what I’ve gathered.
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