Exploring Croatia’s Intangible UNESCO Heritage: Licitar Gingerbread

Total Croatia News

Continuing her look at the intangible UNESCO heritage of Croatia on December 30, 2016, TCN’s Filipa Marusic looks at a festive favourite – Licitar. 

During this holiday season, it not uncommon to see Christmas trees in Croatia decorated with “licitar” – or gingerbread – especially in northern Croatia. This lovely decoration and popular souvenir for visitors in Zagreb county, has less and less people who are making it but those who do make it are quite skilled.

This tradition first appeared in some European monasteries in the Middle Ages during the 16th and 17th century and from there it came to Croatia. Craftsmen who made gingerbread in northern Croatia also made candles and honey-based products, and this tradition is almost the same today. In the 18th and 19th century towns like Zagreb, Karlovac, Koprivnica, Samobor and Varaždin, gingerbread making was an important part of the cultural heritage. This old craft didn’t change much throughthe centuries and was listed as UNESCO heritage in 2010. The most common motif is gingerbread hearth and it is often prepared for special occasions and it is often a sign of affection and love which was even described in national ballet called “Licitarsko srce”. During Christmas time small gingerbread hearts and other ornaments are lovely decoration for Christmas tree. This craft is being passed on from the generation to generation. The gingerbread makers are one of the main participants in local festivities, parish church fairs, events where their different honey based products are sold.

The recipe for gingerbread is the same for all craftsmen and they all use flour, water and sugar (before honey), yeast and edible colours for decoration. The ingredients used are edible but gingerbread is more in use as a decoration or souvenir. The gingerbread is decorated in a specific way – it is usually colored in a bright red colour, decorated with pictures, small mirrors, verses and messages.

Gingerbread makers and mead masters often produce different products with honey, honeycomb and wax base like gingerbread cookies, mead, candles, and the already mentioned licitari or gingerbread. The main ingredient for these products is honeycomb from which you get wax. This makes gingerbread makers at the same time masters of honey making and candle makers because these two crafts are quite similar. When you are in the small town of Maria Bistrica, where the gingerbread making tradition is quite strong, a thing to try is mead (gvirc) – a honey-based drink well known for its healing properties and once called immortality drink. In Marija Bistrica you can visit gingerbread making workshops where you can participate in presentations and even try making gingerbread on your own.

There is a licitar studio in Zagreb called “Licitar” – where each gingerbread is handmade according to the traditional recipe from Bedenica region and goes underthe brand “Croats warm heart”. Along with selling gingerbread related products in Croatia and worldwide, this studio started a set of workshops and presentations called “Dash of joy and brightness” which has the goal to present this heritage.

The Croatian gingerbread can be easily made at home if you have enough patience and skill. The ingredients required to make gingerbread:


1 kg sugar
600 ml water
30 g gingerbread yeast (ammonium bicarbonate)
2 kg all-purpose flour


1 kg gelatine
3 l water
edible colouring
sugar syrup
potato flour
edible colour

First you need to knead dough made of flour and water with melted sugar and yeast and let it rest for eight hours. Roll out the flat dough and make gingerbread with moulds (usually gingerbread making families have their own old copper moulds). Put the shaped dough on the baking tray and bake it in a preheated oven (300 ºC) for a few minutes until becomes light golden. The baked cakes should be dried for a few more days and then stuck together with mixture of flour and water with a hanging string put between the two of them. Dip the gingerbread in coloured gelatine and leave them to dry for a day. The final step is the decoration of gingerbread with different ornaments like flowers and frills.


Source (text and photos): Ministry of Culture, Tourist Board Marija Bistrica, Tourist Board Zagreb, Tourist Board Zagrebačka županija, Licitar


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment