The Croatian Calendar, Month to Month Festivities and Traditions, Part 1 of 4 (Winter)

Each month has its own identity and gender!

The names of the months here in Croatia show what you can expect to experience in that month (at least traditionally). Each month here is truly different because of the feast days, holidays, and experience that come and go throughout the year.

I decided to break it out in chunks to kind of pass along the seasonal aspect of life here which is unlike anything I ever experienced in the US and Australia. There I could get fruit and vegetables any time of year - here it's a window of opportunity that's going to be closing soon. With the first quarter of the year below, let's take a cultural tour of the Mediterranean mentality and the way these people have learned to waltz their way through the year - not day in day out, but seasonally. It was a revelation to me!

First Quarter - Winter: January through March

  1. January - Sijecanj - male. Sijek means to cut wood, and January is the traditional month for it. This month is the Three Kings celebration (6 jan).
  2. February - Veljanća - female. Veljaća means the days getting longer or greater (već). ebIt is also the traditional month for cats who all seem to be pregnant at this time of year! February is also the month for Maškarade, as well as internationally celebrated Valentine's Day.
  3. March - Ožujak - male. Ožujak is famous for the hot sun. Locals advise "wear a hat!". There are three icy cold northern winds this month, traditionally on the 7th, 17th and 27th but the rest of the month is traditionally mild not unlike the Anglo-Saxon Lion and Lamb analogy. With the first of Spring flowers, the first day of Spring comes on March 21st.

Three Kings

Baltazar, Melchior and Gaspar were their names
Baltazar, Melchior and Gaspar were their names

First of the Winter Holidays

Just after Christmas and New Years, Three Kings is another welcome holiday and feast day. It most usually symbolizes a day off from work. It is also the traditional day for taking down the Christmas Tree and colorful decorations in the home and outside. The Christmas Season is officially over!

Little Bit of Culture

Museum Night is traditionally held in January.  It is a free night out to citizens - this year it was held on Friday, January 27,  2012 throughout Croatia.
Museum Night is traditionally held in January. It is a free night out to citizens - this year it was held on Friday, January 27, 2012 throughout Croatia.

No two years exactly the same

Since Easter is calculated on the lunar calendar, no one is sure when Easter and Lent will fall in line. Easter is determined, then 40 days before it is the somewhat restrictive Lent. Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday and Maskarade precede Lent. Some years it falls in January, but almost always the majority of Maskarade or Mardi Gras activities will occur in February. It is cold, but people don't care. They dress up, go wild and enjoy - it's now or never! After Lent starts, the majority of people, religious or not, don't eat as much as they did at Christmas time. it's time to cut back, at least in the spirit of the 40 days of Krizma (Lent). Culture and Religion share a blurred line and almost everyone gets involved - Life is more interesting that way! Besides, most people figure, it's only once a year, so "neka" (why not)?

Croatian Calendar

The Cathedral

The cathedral was decorated by world class artists from Croatia and Italy as well as all over Europe and has been in existence since the 15th century.
The cathedral was decorated by world class artists from Croatia and Italy as well as all over Europe and has been in existence since the 15th century.

Patron Saint of Dubrovnik

Sveti Vlaho also known as Sveti Blaž or Saint Blaise was born in Asia Minor, today's Turkey.  He is the Patron Saint of Dubrovnik.  Note how he is holding the city of in his arms.
Sveti Vlaho also known as Sveti Blaž or Saint Blaise was born in Asia Minor, today's Turkey. He is the Patron Saint of Dubrovnik. Note how he is holding the city of in his arms.
Vlaho and Blaž is the same name - V L A X O - it was mistaken to be Greek since Ž in Croatian is pronounced like J in Jacques.
Vlaho and Blaž is the same name - V L A X O - it was mistaken to be Greek since Ž in Croatian is pronounced like J in Jacques.

Sveti Blaž or Sveti Vlaho

A very important saint's day, particularly in Dubrovnik, is Sveti Vlaho (Saint Blaise or Sveti Blaž). Blaž rhymes with Garage. During the War for the Homelands in which Dubrovnik was particularly heavily bombarded between 1994-1995, Croatians fervently prayed to the city's patron saint. The cathedral is also culturally protected under UNESCO. His feast day is 3 Feb and is highly observed throughout Croatia.

The Saint is for helping those in trouble, patron saint of Dubrovnik and for protecting the throat, which is ideal during cold and flu season. Two candles are held by the priest in a V pattern and a blessing is given. Those who come to mass that day are given the option of receiving that blessing.

There is a folk saying, "Gospa Fiora says (Winter) is fiora (far away <her holiday is at the end of January> but Sveti Blaž says it's a Laž (Lie)!" At the end of January, the weather tends to warm up a bit with light pink blossoms on the peach and almond trees. People feel the days lengthen a bit and long for Spring. But by Sveti Blaž the weather flips back again to cold - that's why they say to je laž or, "it's a lie!".

There are many chapels of Sveti Blaž in the country and people make pilgrimages (long walks) to them for the seasonal holiday, sometimes followed with traditional food like Fish Brudet.

Months of March and April

At the entrance of St. Lawrence in Trogir, there is an intricately carved depiction called "Radovan's Portal".  On it shows the months of the year.  To the right is March and April.
At the entrance of St. Lawrence in Trogir, there is an intricately carved depiction called "Radovan's Portal". On it shows the months of the year. To the right is March and April.

Months of the Year

Which of the Winter Months is your favorite and why? Say in the Comments

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Radovan's Portal in Trogir, Croatia

The pastoral and religious scenes depicted in the Portal include the Three Kings, baby Jesus taking a bath, four of the calendar months, and plenty of decorative floral ornamentation.  Master Radovan - 1240.
The pastoral and religious scenes depicted in the Portal include the Three Kings, baby Jesus taking a bath, four of the calendar months, and plenty of decorative floral ornamentation. Master Radovan - 1240.

The Ancient Calendar begins with March

The ancient calendar did not even consider the dead of winter as the beginning of the year. Radovan's Portal, a very famous depiction of the months of the year, complete with Zodiac signs, starts the year off with March. March 25 was the assumed date of the Virgin's conception, which was calculated by counting nine months from Christmas, backwards.

In the most inward panel, the top half is dedicated to April. You can see a man shearing sheep with the sheep positioned around him. The lower figures are Mars, the warrior and a little cupid figure under him. The poor, overburdened unfortunates at the bottom of the pillars are assigned the regrettable task of holding up the whole scene (see the looks on their faces)!

This Portal was carved from honey colored marble unique to the Trogir area. It is easy to carve and was used to decorate the entrance of the walled city and UNESCO protected peninsula of Trogir, located along the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia. It was carved by Master Radovan, a man that history knows very little about, and he completed his work in 1240. His entry way was actually never completed, and no one knows why. He could have died a premature death, or went to work on another assignment. It is also possible that he was not paid and he refused to do any more work. Maybe some day we will know the answer to this riddle. . .

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I live in Croatia and am doing a series on Croatian culture, history and artifacts. Any requests will be considered! :) While you're commenting, be sure to say what your favorite winter month is and why. Happy Hubbing, ECAL

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Comments 5 comments

thougtforce profile image

thougtforce 4 years ago from Sweden

What a wonderful idea for a hub, sharing information about the different months and celebrations in Croatia! Very interesting and I recognize some celebrations that are similar to the ones we have here in Sweden. For example, we also have a special day in January when we take down the Christmas decorations but we have a different name for it that sounds nothing like the Three Kings!

I look forward to the other hubs in this series! Thanks for this excellent hub! The pictures are awesome and tell so much of Croatia!

Tina


CreateHubpages profile image

CreateHubpages 4 years ago

I did not know that there's such thing called the Croatian Calendar.


EuroCafeAuLait profile image

EuroCafeAuLait 4 years ago from Croatia, Europe Author

Hi Thoughtforce! Thank you for the generous compliment. Three Kings is the last "holiday" for Christmas, which technically finishes off the season for this year. What do they call it in Sweden?


thougtforce profile image

thougtforce 4 years ago from Sweden

The day we take down the Christmas decoration is on January 13, and it is called "tjugondag Knut" which translated should be "the twentieth Knut"! Knut is an old name in Sweden but apart from that I don't know the history behind the name or the day, but I will find out and maybe I can write a hub about it! It is the last day of Christmas celebration here too!

Tina


EuroCafeAuLait profile image

EuroCafeAuLait 4 years ago from Croatia, Europe Author

Hi CreateHubpages,

Each country has its own calendar. I've heard that in Indonesia there is more than one calendar in use at the same time, one with a four day week for daily life and another "formal" calendar. So yes, there is definitely a Croatian Calendar! Thanks for reading and commenting, ECAL.

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