Easter is viewed by many as the most important of all Christian holidays. And in the strongly Roman Catholic country of Croatia, Easter indeed is kept as the holiest time of the year. The season includes an official public holiday on Easter Monday.
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The celebrations begin with the commencement of Holy Week on Palm Sunday. In Croatia, however, palms are hard to come by, so “local branches” are used instead. Olive branches and sprigs from rosemary plants are used to make wreaths, which are beautified with colourful ribbons and flowers. Sometimes, the branches are formed into a cross instead and taken to a church to be blessed by a priest. Traditionally, blessed “poma” crosses were thought to ward of demons and prevent bouts of bad luck.
On Good Friday, a special meal of fish, the type of fish varying region by region. Beans, dried fruits, a fruit-filled kind of jam known as “compote,” cheesy strudels topped with nuts and poppy seeds, and other “meatless delicacies.”
On Holy Saturday, an even bigger and meat-rich meal is consumed. Ham, roast lamb, sausages, Easter eggs, radishes, horseradish, onions, and a special Easter bread called “pinca” are often on the menu. Pinca, also known as “sirnica,” is almost sweet enough to be a cake, is filled with fruits, and is round with a cross cut into its surface. Many Croats will take a basket full of such foods to church to be blessed at midnight mass and then eaten on Easter Morning.
On Easter Sunday and throughout the Easter season, among the main attractions are the elaborately decorated Croatian Easter eggs known as “pisanice.” In earlier days it was common for young men to give a pisanice to young ladies, but nowadays, they are usually exchanged among friends and family. They typically bear messages like “Happy Easter” and symbols like crosses and doves. They are traditionally painted with natural dyes, especially the juice red beets, and waxes are used to create intricate patterns. Additionally, Croatian Easter eggs are knocked together in a contest to see whose egg will remain unbroken.