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?).
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.
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.
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!
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 Putovnica.net.