Christmas is one of the most beautiful parts of the year, and everyone becomes more relaxed and cheerful. During Advent, we enjoy the various religious and secular aspects of this graceful holiday. But the highlight of Croatian Christmas's communion and family experience is Christmas lunch. Getting together with family, laughing and catching all that is going on in everybody's life accompany gathering at a table.
What's on Menu for Christmas in Croatia?
Although what will be on the holiday table varies from region to region, some parts of Croatian Christmas lunch are the same everywhere. The meal will always start with a cold appetizer. After that, soup can but does not have to be served - any soup. Then comes the centrepiece of lunch - the main course. There are various dishes on the table, but roasted meat is indispensable. And, of course, the meal must end with dessert.
There is much to be found for a cold appetizer on the table. However, various dried meat products (usually homemade - sausages, prosciutto, bacon, kulen, etc.), Russian salad, aspic and cheeses are necessary. In some parts of Croatia, dried and bony fruits are also served as a symbol of well-being in the past year. Regarding the main course, every region in Croatia has its traditional Christmas roast.
The Stars of Christmas Lunch
As we said, roasted meat is the indispensable part of the meal and the star of the whole lunch. But which part of Croatia we are in will determine what kind of meat it is and how it will be baked.
Zagreb and Surroundings
In Zagreb and its surroundings, the most classic Christmas roast is turkey, but sometimes it is a suckling pig. In addition to turkey, mlinci (a kind of flatbread; baked and later, directly before serving, cooked briefly in the soup or baked or fried in fat) are must-haves. You will also often find baked potatoes and strukli (a dough with cheese filling; can be cooked and baked) on the table.
Slavonians will most often serve roast beef, but sometimes it will be pig or chicken. Apart from the meat, what distinguishes the Slavonian Christmas table, is the cake. Namely, along with other standard Christmas sweets, you will usually find a delicious multilayered cake on the table.
In the northern part of Central Croatia - Međimurje, the Christmas speciality is roasted, usually stuffed duck. To the south, roast pork or lamb will be served for Christmas lunch. Here you will also find served gibanica - a layered pastry dish with slightly thicker layers and some variation of cheese filling.
The centrepiece of a Christmas lunch in Lika will be roasted suckler pig or, less commonly, lamb. Since the Lika potatoes are much appreciated and well known in Croatia, they are obligatory in the side dish. You will often get pole (halves) - potatoes cut in half and baked, and the most delicious is grilled directly in embers.
Istria and Kvarner
At Christmas, the Istrians usually roast the turkey, but sometimes it will be veal or pig. Often, the atmosphere and taste will complement the homemade bread. Here we will also find one speciality among the desserts - Bishop's Bread. It's a biscuit full of nuts and dried or candied fruits. It is best when it is several days old, which makes it perfect for the holidays as you can prepare it in advance.
Dalmatia is the only part of Croatia where you won't get roast meat for Christmas lunch. Namely, the traditional main course for festive meals, including Christmas, is pasticada. It is a stewed piece of the finest beef, topped with gravy, almost always served with gnocchi. If the roast is found on the table, it will usually be a turkey. Before Christmas lunch, in Split, you will drink varenik – a hot wine with honey and pepper, and fritule - a type of small cake with raisins, are served throughout Dalmatia before lunch.
In addition to the baked delicacies, you will find on the table in all parts of Croatia sarma - mixed minced meat with rice wrapped with leaves of cabbage pickled in brine. It is customary to cook more than necessary of everything. So, you can cook a little for a few days after Christmas.
How do We End the Croatian Christmas Feast?
For the end of the Christmas family get-together and all-day snacking, we will prepare innumerable variations of Christmas cookies, honey cakes and wafers. Nut and poppy seed rolls will also find their place among desserts. Most of Croatia will also serve Christmas Gugelhupf that came to us from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And for complete enjoyment, we also prepare creamy cakes - chocolate cubes, madjarice (Hungarian women), lamingtons, Russian caps, cremeschnitte and many more.
If you want to feel the atmosphere of Christmas in Croatia and enjoy our traditional Christmas dishes, let us know.