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Advent in Zagreb, A Guest Post By Our Friend, Dottoressa

Today we have Dottoressa, eloquent commenter around the blogosphere, writing from her hometown of Zagreb, Croatia to share her Advent traditions. Welcome D! Feel free to ask questions, everyone!


I was truly honoured when Lisa invited me to be a guest at her blog.  I was happy to  accept, so join me this time on a journey to my hometown of Zagreb. Advent in Zagreb is one of many Croatian hidden treasures. The European Best Destination organization nominated Zagreb as one of the best Christmas destinations in 2015. Let’s see why!

Advent Fairs, Then And Now

The history of advent fairs began in Germany and Austria, with markets in the open held during Christmas time where all sorts of Christmas goods were sold. The markets were exclusively for small traders. At the Zagreb Advent Fair, there are a lot of things to do, see and listen to and a lot of places to drink, eat and shop. It takes place in the city centre and it is open from 28 November 2015 until 10 January 2016.

A lot of squares, streets and parks are decorated, creating a fairy tale-like atmosphere, with thousands of Christmas lights and a lot of things going on. Here, you can buy candles, angels, Christmas lights, decorations and ornaments, gold and silver lametta, little gifts, traditional handicrafts, artistic or kitschy (but a little bit of kitsch is essential for celebration and good humour, don’t you think?).

Advent Candles in Zagreb

While standing in the Park of Zrinjevac around stalls with traditional (almost forgotten) Croatian specialties (like apples fried in pancake dough, “fritule”- festive pastries like little doughnuts fried in deep oil, or cabbage cloths) or international sausages, drinking mulled wine (cooked with sugar or honey, cinnamon and cloves), warm “mulled” rakija (pronounced rakiya) – a traditional strong fruit brandy, sweetened with sugar or honey with added spices, hot chocolate or, of course, prosecco, you can socialize, listen to the music or even dance. There are a lot of concerts (Christmas classical music and carols or waltzes) going on in the old pavilion in the middle of the Zrinjevac Park.

Advent Market Stalls

Walking around the stalls, you are overwhelmed with the scent of pines mixed with vanilla, orange zest and rum, cloves and cinnamon. Sausages and horseradish. Children’s expectations and excitement. Jingle bells and Christmas carols, babbling…..feast for all senses! Christmas is all around you …..


You can go for a ride in a horse carriage, go skating in the magical, Frozen-like Ice Park at King Tomislav Square or travel with the Christmas tram with Santa, and maybe get some presents if you are lucky.

Ice park ( source

Decades ago, innocent flirting in Zagreb was called “fuliranje,” so during Advent in Zagreb we have “Fooling Around the Funicular” (the funicular connects downtown Zagreb and the Upper Town – the medieval nucleus of our city, given the Royal Chart in 1242 by the King Bela the Fourth). “Fooling Around the Funicular” expanded this year to some other locations, too, featuring a gastronomic and cultural Trip Around the World, taking visitors to a lot of beautiful cities, like Havana, New York, London, Paris etc. Every day, it is accompanied by a lot of performances, music and art events.

The Celebration Of Advent Changed Over The Years

The Cenacolo Community (young people, former addicts and non-addicts) presents the Live Nativity scene in front of our Cathedral. During communism, celebrating Christmas in public was not permitted. Celebrating in private and going to church was not strictly forbidden, but we all knew very well that it was something “wrong” to do. In a way, we are catching up now.



And, in the end, what does Advent, one of our old traditions, exactly mean? Long story short and simplified: In the Catholic Church, it is the “time for preparation” for “the Coming” (Adventus in Latin), extending over 4 weeks before Christmas, time to pray and do good deeds. In 2015, Advent begins on Sunday, 29 November and ends on Christmas Eve.

Croatian Advent Traditions And An Invitation

We also have a lot of rituals in our homes, the mixture of religion, tradition and some Slavic mythology (and a lot of new traditions like shopping!). We prepare (make or buy) the Advent wreath, a circular garland made of evergreen branches with 4 (or 5) candles for our table. Every Sunday, starting from the first Advent Sunday, an additional candle is lit.

We have Advent calendars with chocolates for children (well, who doesn’t love chocolate?), but you have them as well, don’t you? On Saint Nicholas’ Day (6 December) children get presents in their well-polished shoes placed on window sills, with a golden twig (a twig is a present for bad behaviour).

On Saint Barbara’s Day (4 December) or Saint Lucy’s Day (13 December), we sow the wheat seeds in a jar, for a good harvest next year (I buy mine on an open market, but please, don’t tell anybody!).

There is a lot more to say, but let’s stop here,  visit us and see for yourself!


As everywhere in the world, last weeks before Christmas are actually the shopping season. I hope that we’ll start the year 2016 with joy in our hearts, and not the pluses on the scales and minuses on our bank accounts! Regardless of whether you believe in it or not, I want to send you all love, peace, happiness, light and warmth from Zagreb and me!

Happy Holidays!



Images:  1. Author’s own wreath. 2. Advent candles around Mandusevac Fountain 3. Advent Fair stall 4. Ban Josip Jelacic Square 5. Ice Park 6. Ban Josip Jelacic Square 7. Dotoressa herself. Hi D! Thank you again! All photos author’s own, except the Ice Park, via

45 Responses

  1. I’m surely not the only one who wishes you had a blog of your own, Dra, but meanwhile, I’m thrilled Lisa asked you to guest-post, and that you accepted. This is such a delightful visit to Zagreb — I love finding out about the wealth of non-commercial community activities being reminded of the Advent wreaths of my childhood and even young adult years (Advent was a richly spiritual time then, and I love the associated music!).
    Delicious post! Thanks to you and to Lisa!

  2. Thank you very much Frances for your kind words. This is not fishing for compliments,but my English is really not good enough to write a blog on regular basis. I need a vocabulary to check some words and blog needs not only “to have something to say” but also “how to”
    But I like beeing “on a tour” from time to time :-) or read your blogs and commenting
    I’m with the band!
    P. S. Yes,there is lot more connecting with religious rituals and I like this period of year very much

  3. Thank you so much for this lovely tour of beautiful Zagreb!

    Your advent wreath is fabulous. We made Advents wreaths as kids and couldn’t wait to light the candle that brought us a week closer to Christmas!

    1. Pleasure is all mine,thank you Patsy,my Advent wreath is a little bit de-constructed:-)
      It’s a beautiful tradition,isn’t it? Especially for children! Christmas Eve is still my favourite day

  4. Dear Lisa,thank you very much once again for your invitation,trust in my abilities,all your help and suggestions.
    You and Frances,as my mentors, <3 are going to make a blogger of me :-) <3

    1. Lisa,I just recall that,in our tradition too, one of the good deeds on Christmas Eve is to host every “wandering traveler”- !!! So,this is your good deed,too,having my post here

  5. Thank you for the lovely post Dottoressa, and to Lisa for inviting you. I completely agree that Christmas is a time for a little kitsch, along with chocolate sweets and lots of twinkly lights.

    Wishing you and yours peace, love and light too. Have a wonderful Christmas in your beautiful city.

    1. Thank you Northmoon (what a wonderful nick name!)
      It is so joyful,happy and beautiful,isn’t it?
      Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours

  6. I got a chuckle out of the photos. In almost everyone of the town center scenes someone was caught taking a picture. You may be around the world, but some things are still the same.

    I love the lights and the warm sweet drinks. It looks like a wonderful place for a stroll. Although it looks wintry I don’t see people too bundled up, so I guess it’s not horribly cold just yet.

    Have a lovely holiday!

    1. Thanks RoseAG!
      Yes, you are right about taking pictures :-),I was on the mission taking mine,but it was hard to avoid photobombs. People were enjoying themselves as well.
      Temperatures are mild for this time of year,from +2 to +8°C,perfect for stroll and cold enough in the evening for mulled wine!

  7. What a lovely post Dottoressa and thank you for sharing your customs and pictures.
    Like mater I would enjoy reading more of your writing.

    Thank you Lisa for hosting her as a guest writer, I have read her comments on several of the blogs that I subscribe to and now I feel that I know a bit more about her!

    1. Thank you very much Hostess,I am really honoured by your compliments and kind words.
      I am so happy to find you people!


  8. Simply marvelous. And there YOU are in the final frame and you too Dottoressa are, again, simply marvelous! If it hadn’t been for you, I’d not have taken myself to Google to find out more about Zagreb and Croatia, and here I am hours later, ready to uproot and move there asap!

    And yes, I spent a childhood immersed in the Episcopalian faith so Advent is well known to me, as is the Advent occasion known as “hanging of the greens,” which is a wonderful occasion to bring fresh clipped greens into the church [or in my case, into the house]. I went about yesterday clipping from the woods and today I held my own secular version of hanging of the greens! Sending holiday cheers to you, Dottoressa!

  9. The Hunting House,thank you and thank you :-)!
    Yes,it’s me.
    I’m so glad that you like Zagreb and Croatia,you have to come and see,it is even better than in pictures!
    Thank you for sharing ” hanging of the greens” with us,it sounds beautiful and now I’m going to google more about it

  10. Such a charming post and thank you for writing it Dottoressa. Although I have never been to Zagreb during this beguiling time of year, I very much want to. The market looks magical!

    When I was a child, my parents used to holiday in sunnier climes and I have fond memories of driving through (and staying in) the former Yugoslavia and particularly Zagreb.

    Oh, and I have had a sample of rakija (as an adult), and boy, is that stuff strong. I’m sure it goes a long way in heating a chilly shopper during the Christmas market very, very quickly!

    1. Tnank you very much Chronica Domus!
      I am so curious now about your memories – where have you been? Did you like it here? Do you remember anything? Please tell me!
      Yes,rakiya is very strong but they dilute it with water before cooking , otherwise people will be totally drunk. I have to admit that I tried cooked rakiya only once (as an adult :-))
      There are also different sorts of rakiya with honey,walnut,carob or even mistletoe (how appropriate for this time of year,no?) and they are mild (relatively)

  11. Really enjoyed this, what a refreshing 20 minutes out of my day. It seems we in Western countries (I am in Australia) are losing the sacred traditions of Christmas because we are largely a secular nation, more and more so these days. The old traditional religions are dying out here. Therefore, Xmas becomes about shopping and is very commercial.. It also sets high expectations for children because the advertising is constant, with so much hype and lead up to this one day. We have lost our connections to old mythologies and traditions. It is hard here in Australia, because we are so far away from the traditional Anglo or European countries that keep this alive. I used to love Xmas. I don’t know how I feel about it anymore. I know that I’ve had many where the day would end in tears because my daughter’s expectations were not met, or she just had such a build up to one day of the year and then her emotions all needed to be released. I guess my reticence to enjoy this season is because of this, and because she is atheist, and vegetarian, and has a severe mental illness and expects so much because she has high expectations of life and her parents who can never fulfil, no matter how hard we try. So where is the celebration of a Christ child and eating the turkey on a Christmas Day shared with a person such as this? I think Christmas is a time for children, but not Australian children. They don’t understand the long-held traditions, both religious and mythological, because they are born so far away from the origin and these things get lost over time. Here, people use the season as an excuse to close down businesses for 2 weeks, eat too much and get drunk, and then are encouraged to spend up big on credit cards due to the pressure from the retail sector. All very sad really. What would I like? I’d love to be in Zagreb. And I’d find an orphanage and take a basket of treats bought from the local market and show the children some real Christmas love. After all, isn’t that what this season is meant to be about?

  12. Tracey,thank you very much for your comment and about your thoughts about Christmas in Australia.

    You are right,advertising,media,social pressure are very agressive and hard to ignore. We can find similar situation all around the world

    We have also shopping centres full of people. Sometimes they make subtle athmospere in the name of Christmas shopping,but some of them are overagressive.
    I always try to find my own way,my balance,often voluntarily skipping some events or places or shopping,to make place for enjoying the others. Little by little,step by step,taking the good,leaving the bad.
    I’m sure that you can do it too,making your own traditions doing things you like

    1. atmosphere
      Sorry,I made a lot of mistakes forgeting to answer the comments with “replay”

  13. We were fortunate to spend 2 days in Zagreb in May this year, and were very impressed with your beautiful city, would love to return at this time of year. Thank you for taking the time to share, a gift in itself.

    1. Thank you Jules,you made my day!
      I am so glad you liked it!
      Was there something specific you noticed?

    2. We loved the size of the city, not too big but beautiful buildings, the old town, the friendly people and we felt really comfortable walking around. We did a wonderful walking tour with a private guide called Inga. Just a great experience.

  14. Zagreb is SO beautiful, Dottoressa! Advent is my favorite time of year and my family celebrates as Christians from many different heritages including, German, English, and Norwegian. My dear friend and neighbor is from Croatia (Zadar) and wants to take me there sometime! After reading your lovely description, I’d love to go at Christmas time.

    1. <Thank you Mamavalveeta!

      I'm sure that your Advent combination must be wonderful (and am very curious about it :-)-could you maybe write a thing or two,please )
      I think that we all have some personal traditions that run in family but they are changing during the time,too
      Zadar is a bautiful town and, from this year, has it's own Advent far,so you really have to see Croatia with your friend (in summer too!)

    2. @Mamavalveeta03, We’re Presbyterian in our home, but we share the tradition of opening of the Advent calendar each day with many Christians from around the world, and it’s particularly fun when you have little children who get to take turns each day opening a new door and reading the scripture verse for the day.

      And, we set up a crèche on top of an antique cupboard in our dining room, with a homemade Advent wreath that my husband made shortly after becoming a believer as the centerpiece of our table. It’s “rustic,” but so special!

      My favorite Christmas foods are gingerbread cookies, stollen, pickled herring (Norwegian and German specialties) and our Christmas Eve delicacy…oyster stew! My understanding is that the tradition began when the American colonists found oysters in abundance along the coast, which would make sense since my English ancestors have been here since 1635.

  15. Simply lovely!! In expression, content, and intent. It warmed my heart amid the current political rhetoric here to be reminded of the magic of celebration of Advent, hope and new beginnings. My own celebration feels a bit truncated this year as we are between houses (new house is being built and closes on 12/23) and this was a good reminder to pause and remember the season and my fortune. Thank you

    1. @Kristin,

      Kristin,thank you for your kind words!
      Ooh dear,I know how difficult it must be for you to move out and in! But you have a brand new house and a new beginning ! So in tune with Advent and Christmas spirit! Everything will be perfect,you’ll see!
      New experience to celebrate in special situation!

    1. @Faux Fuchsia,
      Thank you very much Faux Fuchsia
      Especially for you, I’ll send some morning frost from my car windows :-),too. So far we have only fake snow
      I have nothing against 36° C,but humidity kills me (my hair too!)

  16. As the icing on the cake- Zagreb Advent Fair is just selected as THE BEST European Christmas markets destination in 2015!!!!!
    Thank you all for your kind words and support!!

  17. Love to PEEK into your LIFE……….I lived in ITALY for a time years ago and this reminds me of that time in my LiFE.BEAUTIFUL EUROPE and ALL your TRADITIONS!!!KEEP US INFORMED!!!

  18. Hi Dottoressa, I hope you get he opportunity to read this as I’m afraid I’m a little late to the party! Such a beautifully written post. I would certainly follow your blog if you decided to write one. I feel as though I’ve had a lovely day walking around a frosty Zagreb with you. Enjoying the Gluwein and Prosecco!

  19. It was lovely to read your post Dottoressa, and to get a feel for how you celebrate in Zagreb. I am not religious myself, but enjoyed hearing about where your traditions began, and the joy that they bring.

    Your pictures show your town beautifully decorated, and I loved the last where we even got a sneak peak of the author herself. Thank you for the little window into your world.

    1. @Cathi, Thank you Cathi,it was pleasure to write it and even more to read your comments!
      I am so happy to get such warm welcome

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