Croatian New Year’s Day 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

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.

Coin in apple
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. Ina Vukic

Happy New Year everyone! Sretna Nova Godina svima!


  1. Happy New Year to you and yours Ina Vukic, thankyou for your tireless work informing and teaching about Croatia, its Diaspora. You have given much. peace and love to you all.
    gary j. hugs.

  2. Happy New Year, Ina.

  3. Happy new year to you.

  4. I just love my baba’s fritule, so good!! Wishing you a happy new year Ina. Thanks for all your work in educating us with Croatian heritage. All the best! X

  5. Sretna Nova godina. Nadam se da ćete ove godine pronaći radost i zdravlje.

  6. All the best Happy New Year wishes for you and yours. 🙂

  7. All the best to you and your readers and followers my dear! Let’s all hope that 2022 is not a 2020 too.

  8. Thank you very much, Ina, for your always interesting reports!:) For me traditions are important, because they give us a sense of sicurity!


  10. Bonne année! Happy New Year! Thanks for this fascinating cultural post.
    Not Croatian, here’s a plate of miniature mince pies with whisky baked in them. Complemented by chocolate and sparking wine! 🥂🎄😆

  11. I wish you a happy 2022!

  12. I thank you for your informative post and with you the best . 🙂

  13. I wish you the very best for the New Year. You are a real fighter. 🙂

  14. Happy New Year!

  15. Happy New Year to you also.

  16. La Mulți Ani, 2022, Ina ! 🙂
    Alioșa ! 🙂

  17. Happy new year 🎉

  18. Happy New Year, what a great post, I remember my Grandad telling me of a tradition of walking a piece of coal from the back door to the front door on New Years Eve coming in the front door on New Years Day, i can’t remember why now I must ask more questions.

    • Charlotte thank you and Happy New Year. I believe the tradition of bringing a piece of coal to the front door is a tradition that originated in Scotland and is related to the Footer – The tradition belongs I believe to the first footer and this entailed walking around to the front door with a piece of coal and in some places a £20 note of which bringer was not allowed to keep. Knocking/ringing the bell and then them letting person who came from the back of the house to the front door back into the warmth being the first person (footer) to enter the house in the new year and bringing gifts for the household! The first gift the Footer brought had immense significance. The first foot or footer tradition is I think still practiced in Scotland although in many places it is preferred that it be a dark-haired tall male signifying strength etc 🙂 I personally love these traditions which actually had a role in bringing communities together… It’s funny how traditions around male figures for New Year’s first kiss is also in the Croatian traditions where it says that a woman’s first kiss in the New year must be from a male otherwise she will have bad fortune in love throughout the year! In Italy for the same reason women wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve through to New Year’s Day for good luck in romance :)))

      • What fabulous information thank you 🙏. George was showing me a video that his nephew sent him of the Christmas Day march of musicians in Iasi, Romania. Where the neighbours gather funds to stop the strolling minstrels to tell their Christmas tale. I must tell my single girl friends of the red underwear tradition for next New year hehe.

      • Yup, red underwear for women is all the rage for New Year’s Eve 🙂 and you don’t even need to be Italian. Cheers Charlotte 🙂

  19. So many delicious things here Ina, and I remember my Gran saying never do the laundry on News Years Day, or you will be washing and cleaning all year…
    I certainly didn’t do much other than rest and eat .. Nothing as tasty as those recipes ..

    Let us hope dear Ina as we enter this what I feel will become a special year of revelations , that we never let go of true traditions which are becoming less and less in each country..
    Let us celebrate our Heritage, our values, our morals and individuality and sovereignty..

    Let us be proud to stand up for our beliefs, while respecting others and theirs.. Let us find Unity in our communities which heals and doesn’t segregate.

    And let us find within all our hearts Love and Compassion within our differences..

    Wishing you a very HAPPY NEW YEAR dear Ina… May 2022 bring Peace, Enlightenment, and Unity to All..

    Love Sue <3

  20. Don’t all of our lives revolve around various traditions. Mother Earth have given birth to thousands of blessed communities each beautiful and unique due to their rich culture and traditions. But traditions often gets mixed with superstitions and regressive class of thinking. In that case should we change them or continue with them just because it’s one of our traditions? Let me know your view point on it.
    And when you are on it give this article about regressive traditions of India that needs to be changed.

    • Superstitions do form a part of traditions within a nation practiced for centuries perhaps but we are clear on that today and should be able to differentiate between superstitions and healthy foundations of thoughts and practices.

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