New Year’s Customs and Traditions in Croatia

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Croatia is rich in traditions and customs, including New Year’s ones that differ from region to region, but have the same purpose – to best mark a new beginning.

On New Year’s Eve, some of the Croatian islands, such as Vis and Korčula (which just happens to be the island of my birth), nurture the old custom of “kolenda” (“announcing” or “carolling”). In the late afternoon, children (often with adults) visit the homes of friends and relatives, singing Christmas carols and congratulating the upcoming “young year”. It is customary to first knock on the door of the host and ask if it can be sung, after which the children are entertained and honoured. It is celebrated three times a year: on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and on the eve of the Holy Three Kings (January 6th), and in addition to nurturing tradition, this is a good opportunity for many children for pocket money, because once singers received cakes or fruit, today they are usually rewarded with money. When only adults come to sing Kolenda then the host offers a feast of cakes, cold-cuts and drinks (wine and spirits).

Please enjoy this version of Kolenda singing on the island of Korcula, Croatia:

New Year’s Eve Kolenda lyrics from the island of Korcula, Croatia:

We have come to announce to you the young year, merry day,

He who has, let him clean, and he who has not, let him think.

Those pig’s legs left over from Christmas,

better give them to us than have a cat steal them.

In front of your house is a green pine tree, behind it a black horse tied,

and on it the birds, rejoice, little girls.

Oh, you servant of the chimney, is your master in the house,

give us dried fruit, to bite on until midnight.

By the time we got to this house, we tore a pair of shoes,

as we reached these steps, we wore out a couple of soles.

To the master in front of the house, let us sing, brothers, until dawn.

On the first morning of the new year, the family would wash themselves in a basin of clean water with an apple in which a coin would be placed, symbolising health and wealth. Among the congratulators, a man had to enter the house first, followed by a women.

On the first day of the year, special attention was paid to behaviour. The Bunjevac Croats in Bačka believed that a person would be as he/she was that day all year round, so everything around the house was tidy and peaceful. People also did not lend money to anyone on that day, so that there would be no shortage of it throughout the year for the family, and it was obligatory to lash the ground around the home with a whip so that the noise would drive away the spirits of the ancestors who have been living among the household since Christmas Eve. But some customs are hard to follow these days of economic hardships but, nevertheless, and old Croatian New Year’s custom says that the new year should not be entered into with debts; that debts must all be settled by New Year’s Eve at the latest.

Another custom and belief that is difficult to fulfill for many these days dictates that you fill your wallets with cash money. If you manage to do this, even with borrowed money, you will be quite happy financially in the new year.

Special attention was paid to the New Year’s table, which is a tradition that has remained to this day. The New Year’s table was a reflection of fertility and well-being. In some parts of Croatia, it was believed that chicken or chicken should not be prepared for lunch because the poultry disperse the soil in the garden around them backwards, away from them. Neither a rabbit nor a fish was prepared so that happiness would not escape like a frightened rabbit, or swim away like a fish.

It was desirable to save the pork because the pig digs forward with its snout, so the family will progress throughout the year and gain prosperity. Lentils that symbolised money was also desirable: as many lentils as there were coins; while avoiding anything sour so that the new year would not taste the same – sour. a cake was made for dessert, so that the New Year would grow like raised dough.

One custom, which is popular even today, both in Croatia and in some other European countries (e.g., Italy), is to wear red underwear at the transition from the old to the new year, because it brings good luck.

On that day, even the hair was to be washed so that one would not have headaches throughout the year, and if one’s laundry was hanging out to dry on that day people made sure they took it down by the evening of New Year’s Eve so that the cattle would not die and one would have a fertile year.

Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy New Year 2021 with a Croatian traditional gingerbread Licitar heart, which is always given with love!

I have been blessed with your support and care all year round and for that I am grateful beyond words. God bless and thank you for visiting me here on this blogsite! Ina Vukic

Comments

  1. The tradition is lovely and the singing was wonderful. Thank you.
    I wish you a wonderful, Very Happy New Year Ina, filled with wishes come true..
    Huge Hugs

    • Aww thank you David! I am particularly partial to the traditional music from my birth island – it’s filled with human goodness. Wishing you a very healthy and wonderful New Year in which I will look forward to your writings, which always inspire me. Hugs to you too!

  2. YOWZA YOWZA TO THIS LADY AND HER UNENDING LOVE FOR HER DOUNTRY AND ADVOCACY FOR IT!

  3. What beautiful traditions…my favourite being the coin in the apple….Thank you so much for sharing this…Croatia is a place I want to visit soon. janet 🙂

  4. What a lovely post
    Hi dear
    Would be glad if you follow my blog
    Will follow your page too

  5. I hope you enjoy all your traditions despite the circumstances. I hope you are well. I read about a strong earthquake in your country.
    Have a better year. A hug
    Manuel Angel

  6. Ina, hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Happy New Year to you!

  7. All the best to you and yours, dear Ina, for the coming year. May it usher in new beginnings and opportunities and bring you much peace, love and joy.

    ✨☀️🌙🙏🕉️☸️🕊️🤍🕊️♾️☮️🙏🌙☀️✨

  8. Such a nice, uplifting post!

  9. Wow so many old ideas passed from generation to generation. Thank you.

  10. Hoping 2021 is good for you and Croatia, Ina.

  11. Wishing you a Happy New Year! Not to mention it’s still the Christmas season.
    I still want to revisit Croatia! (It will be my 3rd time but who’s counting?) Until we can all travel again without restrictions, I’ll have to stay here in the US.
    In the meantime, here’s a virtual glass of Dalmatian grown wine to celebrate!
    😁🎄🍷

    • Yes the fate of inability to travel due to Covid is repeated manyfold these days, Elisa, but as long as Croatia is in our hearts we shall get there again and again. Happy New Year and I do like the virtual wine 🙂

  12. Wishing You good health and a Happy New Year 🎉🥂🎊

  13. Happy New Year

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