The Winter Holidays
Christmas and New Year in Croatia
During Christmas and New Year in Croatia, the holiday season is celebrated similarly to many other countries. There are plenty of decorations, Christmas trees and a bustling shopping period for gifts. Most towns and cities in Croatia decorate their centres and main squares with Christmas decorations and a giant Christmas tree. Furthermore, some places hold a Christmas fair with stalls selling food and drinks, ornaments and other small trinkets. These fairs usually begin in the first week of December and end in early January. Many larger towns and cities also have an ice rink for skating, with weekdays allocated for schoolchildren to skate and open skating for all later in the day. The Christmas period is taken very seriously in Zagreb, with plenty of festive events happening throughout the city. You can find more information on Advent on the Zagreb website.
Additionally, European Best Destinations has voted Zagreb the Best Christmas Market for three consecutive years (2016, 2017, and 2018). As a side note, the Salaj family in the small village of Grabovnica, east of Zagreb, have a tradition of decorating their property with fantastic lights, bettering themselves each year since they started in 2002. For Christmas 2017, they used 2.5 million lights!
During Christmas in Croatia, Salajland is a popular attraction. It is a privately run Christmas display on the Salaj family’s extensive grounds outside Cazma, around 65km east of Zagreb. The display features thousands of lights and is quite spectacular.
New Year’s Eve in Croatia
New Year’s Eve is a popular celebration in Croatia, with many cities organizing special events in their main squares or streets. These events can be pretty extravagant in larger cities, with top performers entertaining the crowds. Like in most places worldwide, there is a countdown to midnight followed by a fireworks display. These events are free and worth attending to soak up the festive atmosphere. They are trendy and well-attended, with 70,000 people welcoming in the New Year in Split on the Riva in December 2010, according to the Dalmatian newspaper, Slobodna Dalmacija.
Although Croatia still needs to have a year-round tourism industry, the season is gradually extending, and more hotels are staying open year-round or reopening for Christmas and New Year. Many hotels offer special deals for this period, so check their websites for prices and details of planned festivities.
Festive Croatian Phrases
Here are the phrases you will need during the festive season: Merry Christmas - Sretan Bozic (sreah-tan boh-zich, with the z pronounced like the ‘s’ in measure) and Happy New Year - Sretna Nova Godina! (sreat-nah no-vah goh-dee-na).