The Dalmatian Christmas Experience Through the Eyes of a Returning Dalmatian from Zagreb

Total Croatia News

Returning home to family and loved ones at Christmas is something that happens all over the world. But how is the experience for a longterm Dalmatian resident of Zagreb, heading down to the coast and islands to the place of their birth? We are delighted to welcome Karmela Hromin to TCN with her experiences and advice – all of which ring very true. 

If you’re from Dalmatia, the chances are you’ve spent a part of your life in Zagreb. And if you still live in the capital, you are probably going home for the holidays.

Every trip to the coast is a mixed bag of heart-wrenching nostalgia and utter inconvenience, and since this emotional rollercoaster begins long before getting on a crowded bus with Narodni radio playing in the background, we’ve decided to prepare you for it. Or describe it to those who haven’t experienced it.

Dress code

Coming from the continental part of Croatia, you will want to shed a few layers, and put your sunglasses on. Your former fellow citizens have other ideas. Women will, while looking either quietly or loudly fabulous, be walking around wearing wooly hats, jackets with fake fur collars, and scarves which were picked out for them by the Fourth Doctor, all of that at 14  °C.

This brings us to another important feature of spending holidays on the coast, which is the


If you’ve been living in Zagreb for a sufficient length of time, you are now completely spoiled by the fact you’re used to central heating and are thus unable to function properly in Dalmatia.

Morning or evening trips to the bathroom, bedrooms, or other parts of the house which haven’t been properly insulated to begin with, heated all winter, or thawed with a blowtorch are, in fact, a nightmare.

And you thought the bura was the only problem!


The best way to warm up and spend time in your freezing family home is by eating and drinking.

After securing fish for Christmas eve, you should think of dessert.

If,like me, you are hopeless at making traditional dishes, it’s best to go over to your neighbour’s house for delicious and perfectly round fritule, which she makes with her eyes closed due to 45 years of practice.

Or, you know, go to a bakery and get half a kilo for a normal price.

Clear a space in the refrigerator for all of the extra cookies that your neighbours will give you because the only other alternative is to throw them away.


As Christmas approaches, the buzz in the air gets louder. Everyone is home for the holidays so the centre is crowded, and drinking starts early in the day. While doing your last-minute shopping, or rushing from coffee date to coffee date with friends you haven’t seen since Easter, you might be delighted by the sight and sound of a klapa singing traditional Christmas songs on a random street corner, or Father Christmas’ sleigh pulled by a donkey.

There might be a small-scale copy of Zagreb Christmas market, with the lights on and Dean Martin’s Let it snow blaring from the speakers, reminding you the last time it snowed here was 5 or 10 years ago. You will run into your old teachers and forgotten school mates, and make stupid small talk before heading back home to fend off overly inquisitive neighbours and relatives.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you!


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