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Christmas in Croatia: A Celebration of Family, Faith, and Tradition

Discover the Warmth and Spirit of a Croatian Christmas Celebration

Croatia, a beautiful country located along the Adriatic Sea in southeastern Europe, is known for its picturesque coastlines, ancient cities, and rich cultural heritage. Christmas in Croatia is a time of family, faith, and tradition, as Croatians come together to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and the joy of the holiday season. In this article, we will explore the customs and practices that define Christmas in Croatia, the festive events and activities that take place during the holiday season, and the delectable Croatian dishes that are enjoyed by locals during this special time of the year.


Croatian Christmas Traditions

Advent and Christmas Eve

The Christmas season in Croatia officially begins with Advent, a period of four weeks leading up to Christmas Day. During Advent, Croatians prepare for the upcoming celebrations by attending church services, decorating their homes, and spending time with loved ones.

Christmas Eve, known as ‘Badnjak’ in Croatia, is a day filled with preparations for the Christmas meal and the gathering of family members. Many Croatians observe a fasting tradition on Christmas Eve, abstaining from meat and indulging in a meal of fish, vegetables, and bread in the evening.


Midnight Mass and Christmas Day

On Christmas Eve, many Croatians attend a midnight Mass, known as ‘Polnoćka,’ to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. This is a time for reflection, prayer, and the sharing of goodwill among the congregation.

Christmas Day is a time for family and feasting, as Croatians gather with their loved ones to enjoy a sumptuous meal featuring traditional dishes such as ‘sarma’ (cabbage rolls filled with minced meat), ‘purica s mlincima’ (roast turkey with flatbreads), and ‘fritule’ (sweet doughnut-like pastries).


Traditional Croatian Christmas Dishes


Sarma, a dish of cabbage rolls filled with minced meat, rice, and various spices, is a popular addition to the Croatian Christmas table. The rolls are often slow-cooked in a tomato sauce, resulting in a flavorful and comforting dish that is perfect for the holiday season.


Purica s Mlincima

Purica s mlincima, or roast turkey with flatbreads, is another traditional Croatian Christmas dish. The turkey is seasoned with herbs and spices, roasted to perfection, and served with thinly baked flatbreads that are soaked in the turkey’s juices to create a delicious and satisfying meal.


Festive Events and Celebrations

Advent in Zagreb

During the Advent season, Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb, transforms into a magical winter wonderland. The city hosts a variety of events, including Christmas markets, ice-skating rinks, and live performances, creating a festive atmosphere that attracts both locals and tourists alike.


Christmas Markets and Fairs

Across Croatia, towns and cities come alive with Christmas markets and fairs, where locals can purchase decorations, crafts, and traditional Croatian foods. These markets add to the festive spirit of the season and provide an opportunity for Croatians to embrace their cultural heritage and share the joy of the holidays with friends and family.



Christmas in Croatia is a time of family, faith, and tradition, as Croatians gather with loved ones to celebrate the joy and warmth of the holiday season. From the spiritual significance of Advent and Christmas Eve to the delightful Croatian dishes that grace the Christmas table, the customs and practices of a Croatian Christmas offer a glimpse into the country’s rich cultural heritage and the enduring importance of family and community during this special time of the year.

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