Joy For Christmas

Merry Christmas! Gospel according to Luke 2:10-11 “…Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news  that will cause great joy  for all the people!  Today in the town of David  a Savior has been born to you;  he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Merry Christmas!
Gospel according to Luke 2:10-11
“…Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news
that will cause great joy
for all the people!
Today in the town of David
a Savior has been born to you;
he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

 

Wishing you all joy, blessings and merriness on Christmas Day and a wonderful 2015, filled with love, peace and compassion. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Advent joy in Zagreb Croatia, 2014 The power of good will can change the world for the better! Photo: Marko Drpic/Pixsell

Advent joy in Zagreb Croatia, 2014
The power of good will
can change the world for the better!
Photo: Marko Drpic/Pixsell

 

Enjoy this Croatian Christmas hymn performed by Vice Vukov in 1996, the year after much of the Croatian territory was liberated from occupation:

Rejoice the nations,

Jesus is born at a blessed moment,

All nations hear, hear,

and to Bethlehem approach,

approach!

All nations hear, hear,

and to Bethlehem approach,

approach!

See God’s sacrament in the ragged stable,

and who suffers prickling of that hard straw,

that sacrament hear, hear

and to manger approach!

aproach!
Maria with Joseph rejoice watching,

the Angel flying above sings “Gloria”

and you the whole World,

greet the Saviour!

greet!

 

 

 

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

Christmas in Croatia – before and now

Croatians have celebrated Christmas since the Ninth century, when they accepted Christianity. In 879 Pope John VIII wrote a letter in which he recognised the Croatian state under Prince Branimir.
Approval from the Holy See was brought about by Branimir’s own actions to bring the Croatians further away from the influence of Byzantium and closer to Rome. Duke Branimir wrote to Pope John VIII affirming this split from Byzantine and commitment to the Roman Papacy.
During the solemn divine service in St. Peter’s church in Rome in 879, Pope John VIII gave his blessing to the duke and the whole Croatian people, about which he informed Branimir in his letters. This was the first time that the Croatian state was officially recognised (at that time the international legitimacy was given by the Pope).
Traditionally a holiday when families get together, for Croatians, Christmas is also the time to remember the role the Catholic church has played in the development of Croatian national identity.
Faith, along with culture, identity, language and beliefs, preserved Croatia’s national identity during the centuries-long strife when the nation was divided and ruled by different regimes.
Crushing that faith as a means of conquest was a tactic different invaders used over the centuries.
During the period of communist rule in Former Yugoslavia celebration of Christmas and weddings in churches in Croatia were forbidden, and so were Christenings of children, and Holy Communion and all other holy sacraments. Those who wanted to do observe the religious rites did so in quiet and secretive celebration, the only celebration that was allowed by the communist government was the celebration of the non-religious Santa Claus (Djed Mraz), who gave presents to children on New Year’s Eve!
The period after WWII was the time of vicious church and religious persecution in former Yugoslavia. Tito who was the leader of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia had the following declaration: “According to our point of view we are Communists and carriers of dialectical materialism and as such, we are without religious faith”. Church and religious institutions’ property was property was confiscated. Priests were jailed or executed.
The Earl of Perth, Hansard, HL Deb 29 November 1950 vol 169 cc604-52 :

Lastly, there is Yugoslavia, and here, I am sorry to say, the persecution of the Roman Catholics has been particularly virulent. It began before Marshal Tito came to power, but has continued under his regime. Since the end of the war. 200 priests have been executed, and some 1,700 sentenced to terms of imprisonment. I think it is only fair to say that in the early stages before Marshal Tito, and even at the beginning of his rule perhaps, political considerations and events entered very largely into the severe strife going on, particularly in Croatia. But, however that may be, the ultimate result was that at the beginning of this year, out of 1,916 parishes, fewer than 400 were left with a priest at their head. Archbishop Stepinac is serving a term of sixteen years, and yet no valid reason has been given for his imprisonment.
The Communist Party had full political, financial and military power. Tito’s goal was, immediately after WWII, to eliminate churches and all religious questions and reduce religious activities to private life of prayers. Those who chose to practice their religion did so at the cost of being considered as citizens of lesser value. In schools children did not learn about religion and Christmas.
The most recent attempt to destroy Catholic faith in Croatia occurred in the early 1990’s, during the Homeland war, when the Yugoslav army and Serbian paramilitaries demolished over 1200 churches across Croatia in an attempt to erase symbols of Croatian identity and culture. Although valuable cultural heritage was destroyed, they failed to subjugate the Croatian nation. Instead, Croatians emerged as victors and succeeded in establishing a sovereign and independent Croatia for the first time in a thousand years.

Today the customs and traditions of celebrating Christmas are freely expressed.
Wishing you all a truly Merry Christmas!
Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps.(Syd)

SRETAN BOŽIĆ - MERRY CHRISTMAS!

SRETAN BOŽIĆ – MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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