Croatian New Year’s Day: Some Traditions, Beliefs and Superstitions

Gingerbread, a colourfully decorated confection traditionally produced in northern Croatia, usually in the shape of a heart. LICITAR HEART. Gingerbread-makers also make mead and beeswax products. Their craft is inscribed in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Gingerbread, a colourfully decorated confection
traditionally produced in northern Croatia,
usually in the shape of a heart.
also make mead and beeswax products.
Their craft is inscribed in
the UNESCO List of
Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Traditions told us in Croatia that whatever one did on New Year’s Day he/she will do that all year round. Hence, both adults and children behaved well on that day. When I was young I was told not to work hard or do any heavy work on New Year’s Day because if I did I’d be working hard all year. One wouldn’t want that, would one? In olden times in Croatia everyone was told to be good and honest on New Year’s Day and if one got drunk on that day he/she would drink all year! That traditional advice was passed down from generation to generation.

Bunjevci Croats in Backa especially tend to these traditions: on New Year’s Day everything must be neat and quiet and people well behaved. The belief prevails that a person will be all year as he/she was on the first day of the year. On that day men don’t bowl or play cards; children try to be good; money is not given away from home on that day and women do not do any hard work such as scrub floors, do the laundry etc. Everyone is happy on that day.
Whip cracking, making loud and lots of noises with rattles or anything else in order to banish evil spirits.
Wider traditional belief is that what one does on New Year’s Day he/she will see repeated all year round. So, in many places in Croatia, in accordance with this traditional belief, people will get up early in the morning, eat a rich meal, be happy and avoid quarrels with others. If the person one met first on that day was a male – that meant luck! Similarly, it is quite frequent at New Year’s party to see a female making sure the first person she kisses at midnight (in New Year) is a male, otherwise – bad luck all year will follow.
In some parts of Croatia it’s traditionally believed that some types of food bring particular fertility and rich harvest. A whole bread loaf is laid on the table, pork is particularly advisable as meat because the pig digs the soil in forward motion – dig up heaps of good luck. Chicken meat was never prepared for New Year’s Eve meal because chicken scratch with their feet backwards, which symbolises the folk belief that if chicken was eaten on that day then the whole coming new year would be bad. Rabbits are also not to be eaten on New Year’s Day because rabbits run forward and they take the luck away from the house; fish are not to be eaten on that day either because all prosperity floats/swims away from the house like the fish.

Other popular beliefs include sneezing first thing in the morning on New Year’s Day before eating breakfast is a good sign – whichever gender of person who sneezed that will be the gender of new livestock. Need to spit on any money received on that day and mustn’t leave the house empty or unattended. Money was especially guarded on that day because it’s believed that as one spent money on that day do the money would be spent all year. Entering the New Year with debts means one will owe money all year.
Rubbish wasn’t taken out of the house between Christmas and New Year, not even the breadcrumbs left on tablecloth because it was believed that luck would get out as well. Homes not to be swept during this time so not to disturb the souls of the ancestors that may have lived among their family during the twelve days passed. If the washing is hanging on a rope to dry it must be taken down before New Year’s Day otherwise traditional beliefs told that livestock would die and its skin hang on ropes in similar way.

It’s good fortune if the first person walking into a home on New Year’s Day is a male and if a female walks in first that signifies bad luck.

Croatian jam doughnuts KRAFNE

Croatian jam doughnuts

Washing face on New Year’s Day in clean water into which one placed an apple with a coin inside it meant that one would be healthy and wealthy all year.
Making doughnuts on New Year’s Day was a must as that signified that the year ahead would rise just like a cake so too will fortune. Continental parts of Croatia traditionally make large jam doughnuts – KRAFNE – while the Dalmatian region make smaller sultana doughnuts – FRITULE or PRIKLE.

Croatian sultana doughnuts FRITULE or PRIKLE

Croatian sultana doughnuts

In summary:

New Year’s Eve dinner is often accompanied by the saying: As you meet the new year, so will the rest of it be. Entering the new year symbolizes the renewal of life and a new beginning, so always close attention was paid in Croatia to rituals associated with the beginning of a new era. Traditions differ from country to country, but most have the same goals: to drive away evil spirits and bring health and happiness. In different regions, especially in rural areas, the Croats have a number of small ceremonies which seek to better mark a new beginning, and some of the rituals and still followed to this day.


On the night before the New Year’s Day some of the Croatian islands, such as Vis and Korcula cherished old custom “heralding” or “carolling.” In the late afternoon the children in small small groups go to the houses of friends and relatives, and they sing carols or special songs and congratulate the upcoming “young year.” It is customary to first knock on the door and the host asks whether they can sing, after which the children are treated with sweets. These days children receive money as reward for their heralding, as well.


Daily rituals

Calling, beckoning for happiness was the most important thing for a houisehold on the first morning of New Year. Wash face in a basin of clean water with an apple in which a coin is inserted – for health and wealth all year round. The first well-wisher to enter the house must be a male otherwise bad luck will follow all year round; is several places today it’s not unusual to see young boys go from house to house wishing a happy new year to the households. Also it is important who you see on that day, because the holder is that you will be so healthy the whole year, as the one you saw in the new year for the first time.

On the first day of the year special attention was paid to the behavior. Bunjevac Croats in Backa believed that a person would be the whole year the way he/she was on New Year’s Day. So good behaviour, cleanliness and happiness; no one borrowed money on New Year’s Day to steer away debt; cracking whips, making loud noises to keep bad ghosts away as well as to help the ghosts of ancestors who had been among the household over the twelve days leave the household.

Watch what you eat on New Year’s Day

New Year’s table was a reflection of fertility and prosperity, and associated with belief a great deal of care was taken about which dishes to serve. Pork definitely for they signify accumulation of wealth; chicken, rabbit or fish not to be served on New Year’s day for they signify dispersion of wealth or loss of it. Lentils you can have on that day as lentils symbolise coins – the more lentils you eat the more money you will have in the year. Avoid sour foods on New Year’s Day for you risk a sour new year ahead. Doughnuts, definitely, for the New Year will surely keep rising just like a cake dough.

Tradition says you would do best to eat pork on New Year's Day If vegetarian then - lentils

Croatian tradition says you
would do best to eat
pork on New Year’s Day
If vegetarian then – lentils

Do not take the rubbish out

No rubbish or garbage to be taken out of home between Christmas and New Year – doing so is believed to take good luck/ good fortune out of the home. Similarly, sweeping the home not recommended by tradition in this period so as not to disturb the souls of the family ancestors who may have visited the home and stayed there during the twelve days.

Happy New Year everyone! Sretna Nova Godina svima! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. Good Old Croatian traditions / superstitions !…….Love it Ina! …..Thank you for the reminder …… I have forwarded your Post to my family…..It is sure to make them smile also. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  2. My mother shared all of these traditions every New Years Eve. She was always adamant that we do not have chicken, that was one of my favorites. Thank you for the memories.

  3. All the best for 2016!

  4. Thanks for sharing those traditions with us. I hope the Nation will meet the New Year with the best of spirits and that this will be a pre-cursor for a great year ahead and a lot of ‘rising’!

  5. I love any tradition that means I have an excuse to avoid housework. Have you any so I can avoid it the rest of the year too Ina?
    Blwyddyn Newydd Dda I hope 2016 is special for you.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

  6. Happy New Year to you! Wishing you finding new and good on the new year day so you will have all the good year a head!

  7. I bet Croatian jam doughnuts are better than British!

  8. Wow, that heart is just beautiful Absolutely lovely. I would be afraid to eat it because I would not want to ruin it. Now the doughnuts…I would gladly eat those. They look great. We also believed that what you did on the first day would be repeated year round. As children, my mother admonished us to behave well. Have a wonderul New Years and 2016, Ina.

    • I’m the same with those Licitar hearts, Chris – received quite a few in my life and never actually consumed one because each was so pretty and so well done that they made perfect display as souvenirs etc – they are truly wonderful. Yes I do think many traditions are shared between different nations, adopted far back in history – Happy New Year

  9. In Scotland we would clean the house on Hogmanay (New year’s eve) to avoid bad luck. After midnight, a dark haired man with a gift of coal brings good luck, and the coal symbolises keeping warm through the year.

    • Isn’t that interesting Clare…in many parts of Croatia the first person coming into house wishing happy New Year and symbolising good luck should be a male – specifically and preferably dark and handsome 🙂 Happy New Year

  10. yummy.
    Happy New Year.

  11. This is compelling Ina. I’ve read this with a lot of joy. Thank you for sharing a rich post like this on the traditions and beliefs of your country. I hope many of them have changed otherwise they can hold back a lot of people. I wish you a very happy New Year.

  12. Reblogged this on Essence of Dubrovnik and commented:
    Enjoy this blog, written by Ina Vukic, she shares some old Croatian traditions. Many of which I have heard my entire life, wondering if they may be true. It is an interesting way to begin a new year, so I do it all just in case.

  13. Happy New Year Ina, I hope 2016 brings you all you deserve.

  14. Happy New Year! 🙂

  15. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

  16. Jessie Martinovic says:

    I never realized there was so much superstition, do you follow much of it all?

  17. Lovely traditions, happy new year xxx

  18. Happy new year to you and family as well all through 2016 and beyond in the name of Jesus Christ. Henry

  19. Very informative post. Wishing you a very happy New year!. Hope you are on your best behaviour today.😁

  20. Fabulous post Ina and perfect for our food news here

  21. Fascinating traditions Ina, and quite a comprehensive list. I particularly like the face washing with the apple with a coin inside. Both my parents grew up in on farms in the US, and they had their share of beliefs and superstitions. I suspect that lots of these actually have a basis in fact or experience, which has been lost in the mists of time. We wish you all the best for a happy and healthy New Year. Sorry, but I have to go now and find an apple and coin. 🙂 ~James

    • I think so, James – deep down in history the beliefs came out of facts or associated with facts or actual happenings. I also think it significant how the traditional Christmas Pudding in Britain etc has coin in it – so food with money Hmmm must be true – Happy New Year and face washing 😀

  22. Amen 😆

  23. Happy New Year, Ina! Thank you for your work throughout 2015.

  24. Some interesting traditions, Ina!

    Happy New Year!

  25. This was fascinating, Ina. My mother and her mother always said the same thing about what one does on New Year’s Day being what you’ll do all through the year. Wishing you a 2016 filled with wonder. Happy New Year.

  26. Your doughnuts look delicious! Happy New Year Ina.

  27. Thank you for sharing Ina, I love learning about the traditions of others for Christmas and the New Year….Pork and Doughnuts yummm……I wish you a Happy and Healthy New Year 🙂 Carol 🙂

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