If you are planning a vacation in coastal Croatia from February to May there are a lot of interesting events to explore. These are perfect months for recharging batteries in the Croatian Adriatic.
Christmas time is one of the most beautiful parts of the year. Everyone becomes more relaxed and cheerful. During the whole Advent, we enjoy in the various religious and secular aspects of this graceful holiday. But the highlight of the communion and family experience of Croatian Christmas is Christmas lunch. Getting together with family, laughing and catching of all what 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 a lot to be found for a cold appetizer on the table. However, a variety of 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 being served as a symbol of well-being in the past year. When it comes to the main course, every region in Croatia has its traditional Christmas roast.
The Stars of Christmas Lunch
As we said, the indispensable part of the meal and the star of the whole lunch is roasted meat. But in 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 suckling pig. In addition to turkey, mlinci (kind of flatbread; baked and latter, directly before serving, cooked briefly in the soup or baked or fried in fat) are must-have. You will also often find baked potatoes and strukli (kind of 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. What distinguishes the Slavonian Christmas table, apart from the beef, 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 – Medjimurje, 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, it is obligatory in the side dish. Most often, you will get pole (halves) – potatoes cut in half and baked. The most delicious are grilled directly in embers.
Istria and Kvarner
At Christmas, the Istrians will 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 probably 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 that is 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 fritter 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 that have been pickled in brine. It is customary to cook more than necessary of everything. So, for a few days after Christmas, you don’t need to cook a lot.
How do We End Croatian Christmas Feast?
For the end of the Christmas family get-together, as well as all-day snacking, we will prepare innumerable variations of Christmas cookies, honey cakes and wafers. Nut roll and poppy seed roll will also find its place among the 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.
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