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Christmas Time in Split – Croatia



Every place on Earth has its own authentic holiday season customs, ranging from different ways of celebrating Advent and Christmas, to dishes specific for the area. Split and Dalmatia are not an exception.

We won’t concentrate on some new, and extremely popular customs, like Christmas Fair at Riva, or afternoon New Year party at Pjaca. Not even Christmas or New Year picigin playing at Bačvice beach, although it is fun. Let’s just focus on those that are part of Dalmatian life for ages, in no particular order. Experience them, and become a part of a local community.

Cod fish

There is plenty of food cooking around during Advent, but there is one dish which is by far the most popular. In short, in Dalmatia cod fish is almost equaly a symbol of Christmas as the Santa Claus or a Christmas tree. Now, there is a riddle: how come food which can’t be found nowhere near Adriatic became so important in a diet around here, and even elsewhere in the Mediterranean? Total Split gave that answer some time ago, here is the story, going way back into European history. Now, let’s go back to the present days. If cooked at home, there is a big selection in all supermarkets, our suggestion would be to look for little bit more expensive, but quality dry cod. One of the solutions for premium cod is definitely Ribarnica Brač. Speaking of restaurants, you can find it anywhere, from Christmas Fair at Riva to higher-end places like Paradigma, or No Stress.


It’s almost untranslateable, and is pronounced something like “freetewleh”. Fritule is a simple pastry which is one of the symbols of Christmas spent at home, in my family there is a small tradition of grandma making it with her granddaughters. Almost every family in Split has its own recipe, which is – of course – the best in the world. However, it’s pretty much always the same, with certain variations.

In recent days, fritule can be found even out of homes, in restaurants, cafes, at Christmas fair, everywhere, and increasingly as Christmas is approaching.

Early midnight mass at Marjan

In old times, Marjan hill was much more than a recreational area for people in Split. It was a spiritual shelter, almost a cathedral itself. Back then, who knows when, people living beneath this symbol-hill celebrated Christmas with a holy mass at Marjan churches, among others at Our Lady of Betlehem. Tradition remained that midnight mass there is celebrated at 4 pm, so faithfull will have time to go back home before the night. It’s still like that, truly unique experience.

Nativity scenes

One of the nicest family traditions in Split, and not only in Split, is to visit nativity scene settings in local churches. It’s almost a competition which one will have the most beautiful, and it’s really great to visit churches around the old town, and witnessing carefully prepared holy scene. Last year the biggest, and really the most spectacular was the one in Saint Francis’ cloister, don’t miss it this year. Even if not religious, kids will just love it.

Singing at city squares

Klapa a capella singing is one of the oldest and the most important folklore traditions in Dalmatia, and usually significant part of the Advent days festivities. You can hear singing everywhere, from religious corals in churches, to traditional songs at almost every corner, or square. Stop by, have a drink if offered (and chances are you will be), and enjoy in singers’ harmonies.

Highlight is definitely on the last day of the year, or Saint Sylvester day. For years there is a tradition that all local klapa singing groups gather at the Iron Gate of the Diocletian’s Palace, under the city clock, and sing.

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