CROATIA: ADVENT WELCOMES CHRISTMAS

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Traditions that welcome the birth of Jesus Christ are joyous and glorious. Our prayers, our hopes, our visions turn to good – at every step. We celebrate the goodness of life, the goodness we share, the goodness we want for others – and the generosity of such celebrations is so beautifully demonstrated across Croatia through Advent.

What is Advent, some may ask while others know. What is Advent in Croatia?

Advent in Croatia Licitar gingerbread hearts

Advent in Croatia
Licitar gingerbread hearts

Advent is a period of the liturgical year that is marked by preparations for the celebration of Christmas. In Western Christian churches, the Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas and ends on December 24, on Christmas Eve.
The Advent season reminds many of us of our childhoods, but it does not represent only sweet nostalgic memories but also the expectant waiting for a new, better beginning.
Advent is a period of expectation, of vigilance, of preparing for Christmas….
There are many customs in Croatia related to Advent that speak of the particularities of the locations and times from which they originated, but also of their traditional connections with European culture. The venerable and grand celebration of the Nativity of Jesus used to take weeks before Christmas to prepare. People would pray and fast, but also socialize and have fun. They would pray for prosperity and predict the future.  They would all walk together in song and prayers going to the first morning mass – the Matins, while the first carolers would appear as early as the Feast of St. Barbara (4th December).
On the Feast of St. Nicholas (6th December), the children received gifts of fruit or were given a scare by the Krampus daemon and his birch rods and chains, while in the evening on the Feast of St. Lucy (13th December) girls went to sleep hoping to dream of the young man they would marry.
One of the traditional Christmas gifts in Croatia was a decorated apple – the Christmas Apple – that young men gave to girls. A tradition observed even today is the planting of wheat seeds before Christmas to symbolize the renewal of life and fruitfulness. On the Feast of St. Barbara or St. Lucy wheat seeds – the symbol of life – are planted and greenery is used to decorate the house and the dining table. While the wheat planting custom has been preserved even in the cities, the tradition of bringing in the badnjak (Yule log) and laying hay over the dining table on Christmas Eve has almost disappeared even in the villages.
The tradition of decorating a Christmas tree in Croatia has been present since 1850, and, interestingly, the first trees used were deciduous. They used to be decorated with apples, oranges, plums and pears, gilded walnuts and hazelnuts or various sugar candies, paper or glass figures, if they were available. In coastal areas, children used to decorate their houses with sage, ivy or pine branches that symbolized life force that would defeat the death of nature in winter. Christmas trees or green branches are an especially visible symbol of Christmas. Decorated trees are still present in city squares and in front of public buildings. In private homes, they are the centre around which the family gathers and children receive gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Nativity scenes placed under the tree directly represent the event that is celebrated – the night when Jesus was born.
The Advent wreath…
During Advent, a wreath is made and placed on the table to symbolize the expectation of Christmas.
It is usually shaped as a ring made of evergreen branches holding four candles. Every Sunday during Advent, one of the candles is lit. The pine branches and the holly within the wreath symbolize immortality, the laurel symbolizes victory over sin and suffering, and cedar symbolizes strength and healing of all illnesses. Holly leaves are reminiscent of the crown of thorns, which, according to English tradition, was woven from the branches of the evergreen plant. The wreath often also contains a branch of rosemary, the plant that legendarily protected the Virgin Mary on her travels to Egypt. Weaving and decorating evergreen wreaths is an ancient tradition dating to pre-Christian times. Old German tribes used to place candles on wreaths to guard them from the cold December nights, while Scandinavian peoples lit candles in the “earth circle” praying for the return of spring and long warm days.
The first Advent wreath in the world dates from 1838 and the poor children’s home “Rauhes Haus” (Beat Down House) in Hamburg where a young Evangelical pastor and fosterer Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808 – 1881) gathered orphans from the streets in 1883 and offered them a new home in an old and beat down house. Every year during the season of Advent he would organize prayer moments for the children in his charge. In 1838 he wrote in his journal that he wanted to find a way to make Advent nicer to them and decided to light a candle every day during prayers, starting from the first day of December. Around 1851 Wichern’s protégés started decorating the wooden cartwheel that held the candles with evergreen branches. Catholics around the world started forming Advent wreaths after World War I.
The four candles in the wreath symbolize the four weeks of Advent – three candles are usually purple, and one is pink.
•    First Sunday – purple candle – the candle of hope and expectations – creation.
•    Second Sunday – purple candle – the candle of peace and reconciliation – embodiment.
•    Third Sunday – pink candle – the candle of joy and merriment – absolution.
•    Fourth Sunday – purple candle – the candle of love – the end.
•    There is also a tradition of placing a fifth, white candle in the wreath – the candle of Christ!
Apart from Advent liturgy with especially prominent Matins masses, the faithful also pray in their homes. Daily family prayers of The Angelus are conducted under candlelight, with no other lights present. Families follow the prayers by reading Advent texts from the Scriptures. The prayers and the readings from the Holy Book during Advent help family members to grow with hope and carry within them the light of Christ in this world.

I hope you enjoy this visit to Advent Croatia 2013 via some photographs I have picked out (click on them to enlarge) – reflecting on what has been and wishing everyone a wonderful and joyous year ahead. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Advent in Zagreb, Croatia

Advent in Zagreb, Croatia

Advent markets in Zagreb, Croatia

Advent markets in Zagreb, Croatia

Advent in Zrinjevac Park, Zagreb, Croatia

Advent in Zrinjevac Park, Zagreb, Croatia

Advent on Kaptol, Zagreb, Croatia

Advent on Kaptol, Zagreb, Croatia

Advent on Zagreb city streets, Croatia

Advent on Zagreb city streets, Croatia

Advent on Ban Jelacic Square, Zagreb, Croatia

Advent on Ban Jelacic Square, Zagreb, Croatia

Advent in Zagreb Zrinjevac Park, Croatia

Advent in Zagreb Zrinjevac Park, Croatia

Advent at Zagreb Cathedral, Croatia Photo: putovnica.net

Advent at Zagreb Cathedral, Croatia
Photo: putovnica.net

Advent on Zagreb city streets, Croatia Photo: putovnica,net

Advent on Zagreb city streets, Croatia
Photo: putovnica,net

Advent in Zagreb, Croatia  Nativity Scene at the Cathedral Photo: putovnica.net

Advent in Zagreb, Croatia
Nativity Scene at the Cathedral
Photo: putovnica.net

Advent in Zagreb, Croatia

Advent in Zagreb, Croatia

Advent in Zagreb, Croatia

Advent in Zagreb, Croatia

Advent on Ban Jelacic Square, Zagreb, Croatia

Advent on Ban Jelacic Square, Zagreb, Croatia

Advent in Zagreb, Croatia National flag colours lighting Photo: putovnica.net

Advent in Zagreb, Croatia
National flag colours lighting
Photo: putovnica.net

Advent on Ban Jelacic Square, Zagreb, Croatia

Advent on Ban Jelacic Square, Zagreb, Croatia

Advent on Zagreb trams, Croatia

Advent on Zagreb trams, Croatia

Advent in Zrinjevac Park, Zagreb, Croatia

Advent in Zrinjevac Park, Zagreb, Croatia

Advent on Zagreb trams, Croatia

Advent on Zagreb trams, Croatia

Advent in Zrinjevac Park, Zagreb, Croatia

Advent in Zrinjevac Park, Zagreb, Croatia

Advent in Zagreb, Croatia

Advent in Zagreb, Croatia

Advent at "Nama" store on Ilica street, Zagreb, Croatia Photo: putovnica.net

Advent at “Nama” store on Ilica street, Zagreb, Croatia
Photo: putovnica.net

Advent in Zrinjevac Park, Zagreb, Croatia

Advent in Zrinjevac Park, Zagreb, Croatia

Advent markets in Zagreb, Croatia

Advent markets in Zagreb, Croatia

Advent in Zagreb, Croatia Caroling on Ban Jelacic Square

Advent in Zagreb, Croatia
Caroling on Ban Jelacic Square

Advent in Zrinjevac Park, Zagreb, Croatia

Advent in Zrinjevac Park, Zagreb, Croatia

Live Nativity Scene on Family Salaj Estate Grabovnica, Cazma near Zagreb Croatia

Live Nativity Scene on Family Salaj Estate
Grabovnica, Cazma near Zagreb Croatia

Live Nativity Scene at Family Salaj Estate Grabovnica, Cazma near Zagreb, Croatia

Live Nativity Scene at Family Salaj Estate
Grabovnica, Cazma near Zagreb, Croatia

Live Nativity Scene on Family Salaj Estate Grabovnica, Cazma near Zagreb, Croatia

Live Nativity Scene on Family Salaj Estate
Grabovnica, Cazma near Zagreb, Croatia

Live Nativity Scene on Family Salaj Estate Grabovnica, Cazma near Zagreb, Croatia

Live Nativity Scene on Family Salaj Estate
Grabovnica, Cazma near Zagreb, Croatia

Live Nativity Scene "A Christmas Story" at Family Salaj Estate Grabovnica, Cazma near Zagreb, Croatia

Live Nativity Scene “A Christmas Story”
at Family Salaj Estate
Grabovnica, Cazma near Zagreb, Croatia

Advent in Varazdin, Croatia

Advent in Varazdin, Croatia

Advent in Vinkovci, Croatia

Advent in Vinkovci, Croatia

Advent in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Advent in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Advent in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Advent in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Advent in Split, Croatia

Advent in Split, Croatia

Advent in Split, Croatia

Advent in Split, Croatia

Advent in Zadar, Croatia

Advent in Zadar, Croatia

Advent in Zadar, Croatia

Advent in Zadar, Croatia

Advent in Vukovar, Croatia

Advent in Vukovar, Croatia

Comments

  1. Lovely photographs 🙂

    Like

  2. Draga Ina, u moje osobno kao i u ime svih članova HCOIE želimo Vam sretan Božić i uspješnu Novu 2014. godinu!

    Like

    • Translation of message by CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES: Dear Ina, in my personal name and in the name of all HCOIE members we wish you a Happy Christmas and a successful New 2014-th Year!

      REPLY: Thank you so very much all at Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources – Wishing you all a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

      Like

  3. Good post – I enjoyed it!

    Like

    • Thank you Andrew – your posts’ know-how has rubbed off a bit on me, it seems 😀 I enjoy them so. Merry Christmas and happy New Year – with lots of travels and traveler’s reflections

      Like

  4. As always Ina. You are a wealth of knowledge about our traditions. Keep it up. Merry Xmas to u and your family

    Like

  5. Marina Armstrong says:

    Thank you Ina, beautiful reminder and gorgeous pictures. Hope you and your loved ones have a peaceful and blessed Christmas.

    Like

  6. Freundliche Grüße, Wolfgang

    Like

  7. Great article Ina. Thanks for sharing the historical and current relevance of Advent. I especially love the enclosed marquee on Ban Jelacic Square. They set it up earlier this year! The fritule, kobasice and kuhano vino really gets you into the spirit, not to mention the local tamburasi putting on a show 🙂 Sretan Bozic i sve najbolje u novoj 2014 godini!

    Like

  8. Wonderful article and photos. Merry Christmas Ina!

    Like

  9. Quite beautiful – MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and yours.

    Like

  10. Beautiful. Stretan Bozic i Nova Godina!

    Like

  11. Računovodstvo says:

    Ina,

    I can’t express how grateful I am for your blog and the work that you have put in updating members of the Croatian diaspora of what is going on in our beautiful Croatia.

    I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    Like

  12. Hi Ina,
    Just to let you know that I have been following your blog for a while and admire your ability to seek the truth. What a breathe of fresh air!
    Wishing you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas & all the best for the New Year.
    Thanks

    Like

  13. Heart warming post.The beauty of the season is dazzling in every picture of Zagreb.Have a wonderful Christmas and happy healthy and prosperous new year.jalal

    Like

  14. Mario Budak says:

    Ina, great as usual! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family.

    Like

  15. Dubrovniklady says:

    Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. This year I have made my Christmas wish to see you here, making a difference. With every post you write, I learn. Thank you for the truth.

    Like

  16. Wow! Advent actually makes Croatia look beautiful. 🙂

    Like

  17. Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year, Ina. Thank you for all the hard work throughout another year and for this wonderful festive post. I even learnt a few things and I thought I had Croatian Christmas traditions covered, haha! 🙂

    Like

  18. Spectacular! As usual 🙂 But I thought I’d comment on this one because the festive-ness really speaks to me 🙂

    Like

  19. Great pictures!!
    Merry Christmas to you and your family 🙂
    ~Glenn

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. […] for Merry/Happy Christmas, Ina from Croatia told me this when she sent me a link to her post CROATIA: ADVENT WELCOMES CHRISTMAS where I found lots of lots of photos of Christmas there.  I have picked a selection, but I […]

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