How Croatia celebrates Easter – customs and food
Easter (Uskrs) is a big holiday in Croatia. There are so many Easter customs in Croatia that it is impossible to remember all of them. Some are common across the country, some are specific to regions, cities, and villages.
If you want to learn more about Croatian holidays, hop over to this post.
In this post, we cover:
How Croatia celebrates Easter including customs and food
In Croatia, there is a custom of giving Easter eggs as gifts to close friends and family since they are a symbol of life. This is common for people in love. In Dubrovnik, girls would give Easter eggs to their fiancés. This gesture is a symbol of happiness, love, and welfare in their future life.
Girls would also bake braids out of dough and give them to their mothers to nurture a good relationship. Giving Easter eggs is also common in Međimurje and Podravina, as well as other parts of Croatia.
In the northwest part of Croatia, people prepare Uskrsni krijes (Eastern bonfire) called vuzmenice on the night of Holy Saturday. Vuzem means Uskrs (Easter) in this part of Croatia.
In the evening, people gather in front of the church and make vuzmenice. They light the fire using only rocks and no matches. Villages then compete to make the biggest and most beautiful fire. Villagers sing Easter songs and hang out all night.
In Dalmatia, people play music with an instrument called čegrtaljke or klepetaljke. Čegrtaljka is a wooden board with a small wheel connected to metal teeth and percussion. This mechanism allows čegrtaljka to produce a sound when it is ridden on the ground or other straight surfaces.
In Croatia, we eat a lot of delicious food during the days surrounding Easter. On Veliki petak (Good Friday), we don’t eat meat or fatty food. We usually eat fish only. On the coast, people prepare sea fish such as bakalar (cod). In continental Croatia, we usually prepare freshwater fish such as šaran (carp).
Here is a delicious recipe on how to prepare carp in cornflour, a traditional Easter meal from Međimurje.
Here is a delicious recipe on how to prepare cod called bakalar na bijelo.
Learn how to buy Adriatic fish at the market in our guide here.
Easter is reserved for true food hedonism. The food that we eat on Easter isn’t prepared only on Velika subota (Holy Saturday), but also a few days before too. Almost everywhere in Croatia, the tradition is to eat ham, Easter eggs, French salad, homemade bread, and traditional cakes for breakfast. We also eat a lot of young onions, radishes, and horseradish.
Check out our Croatian cheat sheet for vegetables here.
For lunch, we eat chicken soup, purica s mlincima (turkey with mlinci), lamb, odojak (young pig), and different meat roasts. We also eat the leftovers for breakfast. For dessert, we eat traditional cakes such as gibanica, kuglof, or rožata in Dalmatia.
Gibanica is a cake made of flour and eggs that can also include walnuts, poppy, carob, or cheese. Here is a recipe for the preparation of gibanica.
Kuglof is a sweet bread with cacao and raisins. Here is a recipe for the preparation of kuglof.
Rožata is a sweet dessert made of many eggs, popular in Dubrovnik, that is similar to flan. Here is a recipe for the preparation of rožata.
Some people prepare cooked ham and others prepare it baked in bread. Cooked ham is easier to prepare. You only have to cook it in water with some spices. While baking it, first you have to prepare dough for bread. Then you wrap the ham with the dough and bake it.
Here is a recipe for the preparation of juicy cooked ham.
Here is a recipe for the preparation of ham baked in bread.
Pinca is a traditional Eastern sweet bread that is prepared all over Croatia. It is served with ham on Easter morning. People call it sirnica in Istria and Dalmatia, jajarica in Zagorje, Prigorje, and Turopolje, and pinca in other parts of Croatia. It is a simple dough made of wheat, butter, yeast, and eggs.
What makes it special is a carefully selected combination of fragrant spices such as orange and lemon peel, rum, rose oil, prosecco, or kruškovec (a rakija made of pears). An olive branch blessed on Cvjetnica (Palm Sunday) can be placed on the top of pinca.
Here is a recipe for pinca.
Coloring eggs for Easter has been a tradition in Croatia for more than 600 years.
Old customs include coloring eggs using natural techniques. Eggs can be cooked together with certain ingredients that will color their shells in different colors.
Below are traditional ingredients that can be used to dye eggs:
- Blue – purple cabbage, black grapes
- Brown – strong coffee, walnut shells, black tea
- Green – young spinach, a parsley
- Orange – black onion shells, a carrot, chili powder, red pepper, saffron, turmeric
- Red – onion shells, pomegranate juice
- Pink – beetroot, cranberry juice, grape juice
The most common color used for decorating eggs in the Christian tradition is red. Below you can see what each color symbolizes.
- Christ’s torment
- God’s love
- Joy of life
- Victory of life over death
- Good health
There is a fun and creative tradition of coloring Easter eggs using onion shells. This is a healthy technique that uses no artificial colors. Onion shells leave a nice dark red color during cooking. The leaves of various plants are used to leave shapes on the eggs during cooking.
Below is a tutorial for my favorite method of coloring eggs. If you follow these steps, you can’t go wrong.
For coloring eggs using onion shells, you will need:
- A piece of clothing or cotton wool
- A small basket or saucer
- Leaves of various plants
- Nylon socks
- Oil or a piece of bacon
- Purple onion shells
Step #1 Pick the leaves
You will need leaves to decorate eggs. They will leave beautiful natural imprints on boiled eggs after you cook them with the onion shells. My advice is to collect smaller leaves because eggs are quite small, so the design will be more expressive.
I like to pick leaves of parsley, clover, wild carrot, dandelion, and other wild spring plants that I come across. Sometimes I even pick small flowers, such as daisies.
Step #2 Prepare the eggs
Eggs must be clean. If you have eggs from someone’s farm, be sure to check if they are clean from earth or hay. If they aren’t, wash them with cold water.
I’ve noticed that the brighter (whiter) the eggs are, the redder they will end up. Imprints from leaves will also be more evident. If they are darker, the red color will turn darker. If they have some dots on the surface, the result can also be interesting. This is not a big wisdom, but it’s good to know because results can differ a lot.
Step #3 Cook onion shells
During the previous days, collect a decent amount of onion shells. The more shells you have, the stronger the color will be. I put at least 4 handfuls of shells in a two-liter pot. You can never put too much onion. I usually put 10-12 eggs into the pot.
Fill half the pot with cold water and put onion shells in it. Let them cook for a while to let out the color. If the water evaporates and doesn’t cover the eggs, add more water.
Step #4 Decorate eggs with leaves
In the meantime, decorate eggs with leaves. I tear off the stem and use only leaves. Lay the leaves on the egg and put the egg into a nylon sock. Tie the sock with the ribbon and cut off the rest of the sock. The egg must be very tightly bound so that the leaves don’t move.
It will probably take some time to learn the technique. This is not so complicated to do if you use only one leaf for one egg. When you use more than one leaf per egg, they may move a lot. Sometimes I put the egg into the sock first and then put the leaves on the egg. This way, they may move less. Explore what works for you best.
Step# 5 Cook eggs in onion shells
Gently put all the eggs in boiled water, one by one. You can pull them down with a spoon or your hand, but very carefully. Be sure not to break them because the water will be filled out with foam, and you will need to clean them.
Cook eggs for at least half an hour. Take out one egg from the water to see the color. When you notice that they have become a nice red color, take them out of the water. Another option is to remove the pot from the stove to let the eggs cool in the water.
Step #6 Coat the eggs with oil
Take the eggs out of the socks and remove the leaves if you haven’t already and let them cool down. Take a piece of cloth or cotton wool and soak it with oil. When the eggs have cooled down, rub the oil on their surface.
This will give a nice glow to eggs. The red color will be more vibrant and the design will be more visible. Instead of oil, you can use a piece of bacon to coat them.
Step #7 Put eggs into the basket
Easter eggs are usually put into a small decorative basket or saucer. Pick some grass and lay it on the bottom of the basket. You can also add some wildflowers or leaves as decoration.
Sometimes it takes me some time to decorate the basket. This small egg art turns out so beautiful that it makes it difficult to decide which side of the egg will be the front. It’s a slatka muka (sweet torment)!
View our other holiday posts
- All Saint’s Day (Dan svih svetih) in Croatia
- Anti-Fascist Struggle Day (Dan antifašističke borbe)
- Corpus Christi (Tijelovo)
- Day of Remembering the Victims of Croatia War of Independence and Day of Remembering Victims of Vukovar and Škabrnja
- Epiphany in Croatia – Bogojavljenje, Sveta tri kralja
- Međunarodni praznik rada (Labor Day)
- Nikolinje – Saint Nicholas’ Day
- Silvestrovo and New Year’s Eve in Croatia
- St. Lucy’s Day (Sveta Lucija)
- St. Martin’s Day (Martinje)
- Statehood Day (Dan državnosti)
- Sveti Stjepan, Štefanje (St. Stephen’s Day)
- Velika Gospa (Assumption of Mary)
- Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day (Dan pobjede i domovinske zahvalnosti)
Uskrsni tjedan by Rajko Tomanić
Bojanje jaja tradicionalnim prirodnim metodama by narodni.net
Uskrsna pinca by Sandra Gašparić
Uskrsni običaji u Dalmaciji, Istri, Dubrovniku i ostatku Hrvatske by Gordana Igrec
Pisanice na našim prostorima by V.I.
Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.