The Croatian Calendar - Spring Split St. Dominus Mass Traditions

Part Two in a Series of Four

Now we are moving along to the Springtime frame, which are filled with activity and meaning. There's never a dull moment here, although it may not seem that way at first glance. The main activity has to do with Spring chores around the fields, which will soon be filled with flowers and fruit. Other than that, there are religious traditions, like Lent, Easter, Saint George's day (Sveti Jure) in late, April, then May 1st, which is the Croatian Labor Day, a national holiday. Right after that comes Patron Saint of Split, Sveti Duje which is a festival and then some. Springtime seems to come early, and there is much work to do after the winter hibernation. By the time summer rolls around, most people want to just lay on the beach - they are exhausted! (But that is not usually possible, because Summer is the most active time of all when most of the world escapes to the beaches of Croatia - or so it seems!)

Women, Wine and Song

Most Croatian vineyards are much closer together, because the cost of property is sky high, especially along the Dalmatian Coast.  The grapes will begin growing in the warmest months of Summer, sun-sweetened, before harvesting in Autumn.
Most Croatian vineyards are much closer together, because the cost of property is sky high, especially along the Dalmatian Coast. The grapes will begin growing in the warmest months of Summer, sun-sweetened, before harvesting in Autumn.

Home Grown Vine has its Price - Spring!

After the grounds are soft, the weeds are pulled, the kupina and the čloromac have been removed, it's time to add fertilizer. Sheep fertilizer seems to be best. Mixed with sand or soil, it is placed every meter or two to yield a more fruitful, healthy crop. The absence of weeds and addition of this fertilizer, called GNOY is crucial to having a stellar crop.

If you have a vineyard, as many do, the ground must be roto-tilled from the hard dry coldness of winter. The ground must be soft and receptive to spring rains. By March, weeds have started sprouting. The two most notorious are čloromac (KLOR-o-Matz) which is anise stalks. They smell wonderful but will destroy your grapes - the soil can't nourish everything. Other pains are wild blackberries called kupina (Koop-EE-na). They have stickers and thorns, and without gloves it's not a good idea to try to attack them. Both have to be pulled out by the roots or they'll be back sooner than you know it. I have actually seen people yelling at their weeds "What are you doing here! I pulled you out already!" It is kind of funny, when you think about it....


Farmers have to contend with the problem of winds during spring. Nearly every flower will result in fruit, so strong winds can be a big problem. Most of the time, everything works out fine, though.

The schedule for working in the field is usually accomplished in a split shift. From 7 or 6 in the morning until lunch time (or earlier, even 11 am is too hot to work) then returning in the late afternoon hours till dusk (around 7 pm at the latest).

A time of green and health - purification time

Wild asparagus - called šparoge (shparogay) is lightly boiled then added to scrambled eggs for a wonderful and healthy spring time meal.
Wild asparagus - called šparoge (shparogay) is lightly boiled then added to scrambled eggs for a wonderful and healthy spring time meal.
it's delicious!
it's delicious!

Spring - a time of Lent and Easter

Month by Month Saints Days and other Important Happenings:

  • April - Travanj - male - the days have begun to get noticeably longer. Travanj means grass - which means your vineyard needs lots of care right now. There are wild berry bushes, fresh anise stalks and other menaces which will do more harm than good if you want a great crop of grapes. The first flower buds have begun to appear now on your grapevines. This month calls for rest due to the extra work required and warm sun. Most land owners have an early morning shift of 6 am to noon, then eat and rest til 4 pm when they go back out into the fields.
  • May - Svibanj - male - I got a maybe answer to my question, what means Svibanj? In general it means "everything alive". That means - everything. New baby lambs, goats, fruit, vegetables, flowers, and life has pretty much exploded out of nothingness. This month has the very important First of May (Labor Day) holiday which traditionally kicks off the tourist season, and Svetoga Dujeta - Sveti Duje - Saint Dominus - the very important patron saint of Split who butt heads with the Dioklecian - and lost. But not exactly - the Diokletian's mauseoleum became one of the first Christian cathedrals - maybe sveti Duje did get the last laugh after all!
  • June - Lipanj - male. The school year is coming to a close. Many people have begin swimming by now, but there are a few die hards who will wait for Saint Anthony Day on June 13. After this holiday, it is officially time to get into the beautiful, warmish Adriatic Sea.

Since Easter is determined by the lunar calendar, no one knows exactly when Lent will begin, the 40 days preceding Easter. Generally speaking, by the time April rolls around, Easter is just around the corner. And right after that, the tourist season starts to gradually roll around.

Lent or Korizma as it's called here, is a little bit of an unpopular time. No one is allowed to get married in this 40 day time frame - it's simply not cool. A pre-Korizma bride myself, it was down to the last moment. In our case (and my parents') it was decided to marry before Maskerade, because after that there is a long wait!

Many people, religious or not, go with the flow and put up with the traditions (in many ways, it's easier to go with them than to rebel against them). During Krizma / Lent many people give up something they love, like coffee, cigarettes, desserts and whatnot. In general, cut back on food a little, because they are still a little heavier since Christmas and it's a small form of sacrifice. Less meat is consumed, more vegetables are eaten, and people try to go to church a little bit more than normal.

Easter Time

Traditional Easter Bread, called sirnica.  It's thirds look is for the three crosses at Calgary.  Tradition here takes many shapes and forms.
Traditional Easter Bread, called sirnica. It's thirds look is for the three crosses at Calgary. Tradition here takes many shapes and forms.
Sretan Uskrs means "Happy Easter!"  Hard cooking the eggs with onion skin and other natural dyes can give a reddish brown color.  Commercial dyes are also used. Some children paint them or add store bought stickers
Sretan Uskrs means "Happy Easter!" Hard cooking the eggs with onion skin and other natural dyes can give a reddish brown color. Commercial dyes are also used. Some children paint them or add store bought stickers
Another Easter Treat - pletenica.  Made from sirnica dough, it's a braided bread with uncooked eggs positioned within it, which cook during the baking process.  Some lucky children receive their very own (smaller) pletenica on Easter morning!
Another Easter Treat - pletenica. Made from sirnica dough, it's a braided bread with uncooked eggs positioned within it, which cook during the baking process. Some lucky children receive their very own (smaller) pletenica on Easter morning!
Creative, hand braided palm branches with unusual designs and variations are sold in the marketplace a few days before Palm Sunday, called Cvjetnica (or flower day) in Croatian.
Creative, hand braided palm branches with unusual designs and variations are sold in the marketplace a few days before Palm Sunday, called Cvjetnica (or flower day) in Croatian.

Easter Tradition

Technically the most important Christian holiday, it begins a few days before.

  1. Good Friday, the day that Jesus died is a day of no meat. All throughout Lent, meat is highly discouraged on Friday, but it's a case by case situation. Sick people who need nutrition and pregnant moms are encouraged to eat the food that's best for them.
  2. You must go to mass that evening for a brief service then quiet procession around the city streets. It is really kind of nice, since the weather is already starting to warm up. Conversation is discouraged, it is a time of preparation and reflection.
  3. Holy Saturday: The majority of good Croatian housewives make or buy a loaf of Sirnica, known as Croatian Easter Bread. It's GOOD! Filled with egg, butter, lemon and orange rind and other wonderful flavors, it can be enjoyed at anytime of year.
  4. Blessing of the Food. On Saturday afternoon, the priest goes to the churches where people have gathered with their freshly baked Sirnicas and colorfully decorated hard boiled eggs. Other items, like salt, uncooked eggs (for making dessert) are discreetly offered, partially covered with a printed or embroidered decorative cloth. He sprinkles holy water on them from afar and everyone says Amen. After all, tomorrow is Easter and there is a lot of work to be done.
  5. Easter means - new life, hope, and another chance at redemption. So dress up and smile - this day only comes once a year! Those who have sworn off cigarettes and coffee can now happily light up again and embrace the beginning of the time frame leading into the summer months.

Easter Itself

Easter itself is a feast day, for attending church, lingering after to have a cup of coffee with friends, and enjoy a large meal.

The normal feast type meal could include a plate of meat and cheeses, especially Pag cheese and a little alcohol before dinner. Dinner would ideally consist of roasted leg of lamb with rosemary. This can be substituted by a pork, ham or any other fine cut of meat. Side dishes can be roasted potatoes and a fresh green salad. Usually, French Salad, the favored choice here over potato salad, is also featured and a dessert or two are prepared. A glass of good quality red wine, alone or mixed with water, may be served with the meal or at the end. When the table has been cleared and the guests have had time to relax a little bit, dessert of baklava or even sirnica and perhaps something from the chocolate food group may be served, along with short black cups of strong Turkish coffee! After that it's time to talk, play games, or engage in a game of Tombola (Croatian Bingo) if it's being offered in a public location.

May Day - May First is Croatian Labor Day

In the month of May the scent of summer is upon us. The First day of May is a national holiday. Like many others, it's based on a Saint's Day, in this case St. Joseph. His traditional holiday is March 19th, but never mind, LOL. Considered the patron saint of honorable work, he represents the Croatian equivalent of Labor Day, which is celebrated on the first Monday of September in America.

But here it is the May 1st - and the majority of people have the day off! With a little luck there is great weather. It's even better when the day happens to falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday. This enables the average person to stretch the weekend out to a four day one - Friday or Monday can be converted into a sick day or vacation day, if the boss is willing to go along with it!

Saint Dominus or Sveti Duje

Sveti Duje, patron saint of Split.  Presumed to be the first bishop of Solin in ancient times, he was was tortured and killed by the Roman Emperor Dioklecijan in 304.  One year later, the emperor stepped down, a historical precedent.
Sveti Duje, patron saint of Split. Presumed to be the first bishop of Solin in ancient times, he was tortured and killed by the Roman Emperor Dioklecijan in 304. One year later, the emperor stepped down, a historical precedent.

Sveti Duje - Saint Dominus - Patron Saint of Split

The highlight of the Spring time is festival Sveti Duje held on May 7th every year. What a trip! Croatia's Second City with its population of 200,000 people explodes to greet over a million happy go lucky visitors and celebrants. The day begins with Mass on the Riva, a free bowl of manistra - fažol (beans and pasta, it's surprisingly good) and games of chance. Fresh cheeses, handmade wooden toys to buy, balloons, and music. It is really a party! If you are anywhere near Split on May 7, come check it out!

Tombola - Fabulous Prizes!

The Split Cathedral of Sveti Duje (Saint Dominus) is the center of the action. Late afternoon begins the famous Croatian bingo game called Tombola. On your paper are numbers from 1 to 90, grouped in six horizantal boxes. As they call off the numbers, depending upon where they are grouped, you may win a prize - and not a small prize, either. (Local Sunday Tombola games offer more modest prizes, like homemade cakes, which may be taken home or shared with the tombola buddies at the table.) It's all in good fun, who wins, wins! All in the spirit of Sveti Duje!

History of the Festival

Student Tours - the Classroom Outside

If you are lucky enough to have kids in the Croatian educational system, the kids really get a real leg up on education. First, the classes are small. From first grade (even before) they are learning English. By fourth grade they have the option of learning Italian. Many go on to learn at least three languages by the time they graduate from school. The amount of books they carry back and forth to school is enough to make your head spin.

During the springtime, especially those in transition years (4th grade, 8th grade and high school graduates) go on excellent trips. They may last anywhere from four days to ten days. It is not unusual to see groups of school aged children on an "excursion" with their teacher and another teacher or parent - helper. Tourist agencies are aware of this trend and offer packages specially designed for students. Usually the trips are designed around historical or culturally significant places. It is a change to learn while enjoying a change of scenery and absorbing new influences in a perceptually fresh way.

Birthdays and Name Days are Observed

When Saint Anthony (or any saint's day) comes around, people are congratulated "Happy Name Day"! or "Sretan Imendan!" if their names are a form of Anthony.  This includes names like Antonia, Tania, Anton, Tony, etc.
When Saint Anthony (or any saint's day) comes around, people are congratulated "Happy Name Day"! or "Sretan Imendan!" if their names are a form of Anthony. This includes names like Antonia, Tania, Anton, Tony, etc.

Saint Anthony - blessing the water for swimming

The feast day of St. Anthony (Sveti Antonio) is 13 June. This day is a traditional day to go to church and walk around in a procession. Children bring flower petals in baskets to toss on the ground in front of the main procession. Church is usually packed so people stand outside and visit with friends, then go into the church to say a quick prayer or light a candle in remembrance of a loved one.

After Saint Anthony, the coast is clear for swimming, though many begin much earlier. In Dalmatia in particular it is very hot in the month of May. The weather does not really stabilize until July. June is known for its extremely hot weather followed by rain and wind, then again heat. There is lots of humidity in June. May is usually dry heat and a great time to get started on a swimming plan and a tan line.

Most people here don't pretend to be athletes. It is all so pointless. The main thing is good health, good attitude and long life. "Malo pomalo" or a little at a time is the basic creed. This time of year is among the best times - the weather is warm, the days are a bit longer, and summer is on the way. Once summer arrives, the whole world comes to Croatia which is both a blessing and a curse. But like all things Mediterranean, it comes and goes in a cycle, so might as well accept it!

Favorite Month in Spring

What's your favorite Spring time month and why?

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Time to Swim!

Pop Quiz: When to have Fun in the Sun

When do you start swimming or sunbathing?

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Croatian traditional music

How you like the series?

If you like this Croatian calendar, be sure to read the others

Part 1 of 4 - Winter Months

Part 2 of 4 - is what you are currently reading

Part 3 of 4 - Summer Months

Part 4 of 4 - Autumn Months


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