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Customs of Croatia

Marriage and Family

Generally, people in rural areas marry in their early 20s and urban dwellers in their late 20s to early 30s. To be legally married, one must have a civil ceremony, but having a church wedding before the civil ceremony has become popular since the demise of communism. After the ceremony, a wedding reception is usually held at home or in a restaurant. Weddings in rural areas are a particular cause for celebration, and the festivities may last for days.

Families in rural areas traditionally include grandparents, parents, and children. The father or grandfather has a dominant role in the family. In urban families, both husband and wife are more likely to share in decision making. Grandparents may also be included in the decision-making process, but less often than in rural areas. Children of working mothers may go to day-care centers or may be cared for by family members (usually grandparents). Adult children often live with their parents until they marry or can afford to live on their own. Children are expected to care for their elderly parents.

Eating

A variety of foods are found in Croatia because of its varied climate and landscape, and the cuisine is influenced by neighboring countries. Dishes made from chicken, beef, fish, pork, and lamb are common throughout Croatia, while seafood and vegetables are found more in coastal areas. An inland specialty is štrukli, which is boiled or casseroled cottage cheese strudel. Meals in the countryside are large and made with seasonal ingredients. The main meal of the day usually consists of meat or fish, potatoes, and rice or maize. Urban families have less time to cook than families in rural areas and therefore eat foods more convenient to prepare. Wine is the most popular drink with a meal. Also popular are beer, mineral water, and fruit drinks. Regional cuisines vary, with southern food being somewhat heavier and spicier than northern food.

Breakfast is light and usually accompanied by black coffee. Yogurt is often eaten for breakfast or as a snack later in the day. In coastal areas, people break at midmorning for marenda, a light meal of cold cuts, cheese, and bread or fruit and pastries. A light midday snack is common in other areas, too. Lunch is the main meal of the day and consists of soup, meat, salad, bread, potatoes or other cooked vegetables, dessert, and coffee or tea. In urban areas, dinner usually consists of cold cuts of meat, bread, cheeses, and eggs. People in rural areas may sometimes have a cooked meal for dinner. When eating, hands are kept above the table. Conversation at the table is often lively.

Socializing

A handshake is the most common greeting in Croatia, along with a phrase such as Dobro jutro (“Good morning”), Dobar dan (“Good day”), or Dobra vecer (“Good evening”). The most common phrases used among friends and neighbors for saying hello are Zdravo (“Health”) and Bok (deriving from Bog, the word for “God,” it means “Hi”). “Goodbye” can either be Zbogom (“With God”) or Do vidjenja (“Until we meet again”). When friends and relatives greet, they may embrace and kiss cheeks. Ethnic Croatians kiss twice—once on each cheek; Croatians of Serbian heritage generally add a third kiss. In formal situations, a man waits for a woman to extend her hand. In formal greetings, the family name is preceded by Gospodine (“Mr.”), Gospodjo (“Mrs.”), Gospodjice (“Miss”), or a professional title. The younger person greets first. Among close friends and relatives, first names are used. Kinship is important, and terms used when addressing family depend on that relationship. For example, the word for “aunt” can be either teta (father’s or mother’s sister) or ujna (father’s or mother’s brother’s wife).

In Croatia, people take pleasure in visiting one another to socialize. Most visits are arranged in advance, but unexpected guests are also welcomed. When invited to a home, guests usually bring a small gift. The host usually unwraps the gift in the presence of the guest, but flowers are presented unwrapped; the host places them in a vase in the room where the guests are seated. Guests are usually offered refreshments, perhaps a drink or coffee (usually Turkish) and a snack, which it is considered impolite to decline. Evening visits usually end before 11 pm, except on special occasions. The host accompanies guests out the door if leaving an apartment, or a little way down the street if leaving a house.

Recreation

Croatians enjoy socializing and getting together for historical, religious, cultural, and sporting events, and on family occasions. The most popular sport is soccer, followed very closely by basketball, and then handball, tennis, water polo, and sailing. Other sports and games such as chess, volleyball, archery, hockey, boxing, skiing, swimming, bowling, rowing, fishing, and hunting are also enjoyed.

Many people like to go on walks, and families usually take summer vacations lasting one to four weeks. People who live in urban areas enjoy outings in the countryside, vacationing on the Adriatic coast and traveling abroad. Croatians often watch television in the evenings and on weekends, and frequent the cinema and museums. Folk festivals and the arts in general are well supported.

Holidays and Celebrations

Official public holidays include New Year’s Day (1 January), May Day (1 May), Republic Day (30 May), National Holiday (22 June), Assumption (15 August), All Saints’ Day (1 November), and Christmas (25 to 26 December). Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on 7 January, and they receive a paid holiday for it. Muslims may take paid leave to celebrate Ramasan Bairam (the feast at the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting) and Kurban Bairam (Feast of the Sacrifice). Jews may also have paid leave for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).

Source: Encarta Interactive World Atlas