If you love holiday season, Zagreb is the place to be. The city center turns into a huge Christmas market with many creative spots and events.
But not all of us love crowds, some prefer the exclusive feeling of participating in the not-too-touristy events. Enjoy this pick of under-the-radar winter events in Zagreb that will make your stay here feel even more authentic and bring back the true meaning of the holiday spirit.
It's Christmas season again, and I hear there will be a Santa run organized in Zagreb. Wouldn't it be even more fun to organize a competition between all Croatian Christmastide gift bringers? Every single one would have some strenghts and some weaknesses. Take Saint Lucy, for example. She would have some trouble running while carrying her eyes on a silver plate, right? And St Nicholas doesn't need to take care just of himself, he also has to drag his woolly pet Krampus in chains around. Oh, and kids, make some room for the Three Wise Men, if you don't want a black kiss on your cheek, they love to do that...
Good news, everyone, the passage between our world and the underworld is about to be closed. It’s the Epiphany. In Croatia, we celebrate it as a public holiday called Sveta Tri Kralja (Three Kings or Wise Men). Today being the last of the 12 days (the dodekahemeron or dvanaestodnevnica in Croatian) is also the very last chance to use the otherworldly forces and entities to influence your destiny or foresee the future.
Before Zagreb adopted a pile of imported Christmas traditions some century and a half ago, there had been a custom of hanging a wreath made of evergreens above the dining table. The wreath, usually referred to as kinč, used to be decorated with little red apples and golden nuts. Later on, the decoration expanded to licitar cookies, paper ornaments, candies wrapped in shiny paper…
Northwest Croatia including Zagreb surroundings was marking Saint Lucy’s day in many interesting ways, so let’s start with her depiction. In the past, a woman dressed as Saint Lucy would go around the village, visiting each house. When I say dressed as Saint Lucy, I mean adornments, too. Indeed, she was carrying a plate with some animal’s eyeballs.
To tell you the truth, we actually borrowed St. Nick from our middle-European neighbours. Folkloristic research shows very little evidence of celebrating St. Nicholas’ feast day among Croatian folk. Still, in the last few decades, St. Nick became the true star of pre-Christmas period in Croatia.