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Christmas Traditions in Dubrovnik

Christmas in Dubrovnik is a truly magical time to be in this historic city. With a range of events and concerts at the increasingly popular Advent in Dubrovnik festival, a combination of tradition and warm Dalmatian hospitality make December in Dubrovnik an unforgettable experience.

Winter is coming, and while that may be a rallying call for all Game of Thrones fans with an interest in Kings Landing, visiting the real Dubrovnik in winter is a real treat. Tourists give way to locals, who are relaxing after another busy season, enjoying their traditional way of life during this festive time of year.And there are plenty of traditions to indulge in…

The main Christmas traditions take place on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It all starts on the morning of December 24, as groups of locals gather in their thousands in the Old Town, beautifully attired with men in suits and ladies in elegant dresses. Friends are reunited over drinks, with the joyful greeting of “Nazdravlje” when friends meet. Drinks gave way to song at midday as the crowd gathers to sing Kolenda, traditional Christmas songs akin to carols.

The singing of Kolenda is a key part of the Dubrovnik Christmas traditions, as children and friends gather in the afternoon and evening of Christmas Eve, going house to house singing Kolenda, before heading to church for Midnight Mass. The sound of such traditional song reverberating around the Dubrovnik stone is magical.
Food is obviously a key theme of Christmas, and you will notice a rather pungent fishy smell on Christmas Eve.

For the traditional meal of the day (and there are also public servings) is bakalar, a Christmas (and Easter) essential, which curiously has its roots in Norway and not in the abundant Adriatic in front of the city. Bakalar is dried cod and used to be poor man’s food, but has long been an essential part of the Dubrovnik Christmas tradition. The dried cod is soaked in water for at least 24 hours before being cooked with potatoes, onions, garlic and olive oil.

If you have a sweet tooth, you have come to the right place! Dubrovnik has a range of local delicacies which delight children, including ‘arancini’ (candied orange peels), roasted candied almonds, ‘prikle’ (a festive local nibble resembling doughnuts) and ‘kontonjata’ (a traditional cake made from fresh quince).

Christmas Day is, of course, the main event, a meat fest and time of celebration with present wrapping under the tree. There is plenty of rakija and excellent local wines to aid with the celebrations. And even if you cannot make it to the Pearl of the Adriatic for Christmas, one of the more unusual facts about Dubrovnik is that Christmas is available all year round. While we can’t say that this is exactly a long-standing tradition dating back centuries, Dubrovnik has its very own Christmas Shop in the heart of the Old City, which is open all year. So if you are planning for a little early Christmas shopping next summer, you have come to the right place.

Ođe, ođe, nazdravlje van Badnje veče dođe (…)

Photo credit: Archive Tourist Board Dubrovnik / Photographer: Igor Brautović

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