How to Keep New Year’s Day Traditions Alive and Well in Split

Daniela Rogulj

From California to Croatia, Daniela Rogulj talks about how she keeps her New Year’s Day traditions alive in Split.

New Year’s Day traditions: some of us have them, some of us don’t, and many of us use the first day of the new year to kickstart a new plan or set forth a new life regimen. My family, and when I say family, I mean my complicated, mixed Croatian-American family including aunts, uncles, and first, second, and third cousins, had our own tradition for New Year’s Day back in California: Chinese food. 

Every New Year’s Day, my Croatian family would gather in Southern California for a Chinese food feast. This event, one that everyone in the family looked forward to (especially when the New Year’s Eve hangover started to kick in), became a symbol of our many traditions, and one we have celebrated for as long as I can remember. 

Fast forward to New Year’s Day in Croatia, 2017. You’d think it would be nearly impossible to continue such a feat because after all, Chinese food isn’t at every alleyway or corner in this city. But lucky for my parents, my brother, and myself, thankful to all be together this year, we were able to carry on our tradition.

Split, believe it or not, has welcomed quite an Asian influence over the last few years. While one of the longstanding Chinese restaurants in the city closed, only to reopen recently, other players have come into the game, and the Chinese community in Split is surely growing.

My family and I enjoyed our traditional New Year’s Day meal at Restoran Asia, a Chinese restaurant new to Split this year. While the menu may not offer many of the Hong Kong style treats I had enjoyed in the past, the staples are worth it and you are guaranteed full and satisfied bellies after a meal here. 

While I was sitting and enjoying my pork dumplings, I couldn’t help but wonder about the journey the family behind the restaurant made to move from Asia to Split. While I thought my journey was a lot, at least I was already accustomed to the culture and had visited the country often growing up. The Restoran Asia family – the aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and children – sat together enjoying each other’s company while my family and I sat together enjoying our special meal; I was eager to learn their story. 

I approached the smiley and full of life owner, whose identity she did not wish to reveal. While I had so many questions, I knew she was busy, so I settled for a quick few.

For starters, we spoke entirely in Croatian as she does not speak English, and I have to admit, she speaks the language flawlessly. I learned that the family has been in Croatia almost ten years and moved here after the owner’s cousin called and said there was an opportunity in Zagreb. And there they went, from China to Zagreb, on their Croatian journey. 

The family first settled in Zagreb, then to the island of Krk, and currently resides in Split. The language, the owner tells me, was hard to learn during the first year, but after the second the words came much easier – rather reassuring for a Croatian via California who is in her second year here and still struggles with not having the perfect Croatian language skills,

And finally, why Split? “The climate!” the owner laughed. Enough said. 

Split is full of so many different faces and while you think the journey you’ve made to live here is a wild one, always remember to take a look around you and see the color in this magical city that encompasses you. The mere fact that I can keep my Californian traditions 6,000 miles away in Split is a beautiful thing, and it also shows the progression and diversity the city is beginning to harness. This is just one of many reasons we call Split the most beautiful city in the world, after all. 


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