A Croatian funeral ceremony is usually pretty big and involves many local customs. The entire process of organizing a funeral may last for days and includes much more than only the event itself.
It is quite hard to keep all thoughts together in stressful situations like funerals. Flowers, lanterns, osmrtnice, music, and food are only some things to handle. Time flies quickly, and you do not want to leave anything to chance.
This post is written from a local’s perspective to bring the idea of a Croatian funeral closer to you. We included everything you should pay attention to when organizing or attending a Croatian funeral and what the ceremony looks like.
To get familiar with everything you should prepare before you die in Croatia, view this post. If you want to know what happens right after death, including reporting death, autopsy, transport, and organ and body donation, visit this post.
In this post, we cover:
- Burials and cremations
- Who attends funerals
- How to organize a funeral
- What to bring to a funeral
- How a funeral looks like
- Funeral costs
The facts are these…
How to organize and attend a funeral in Croatia
In Croatia, traditional burials are still common, and cremations are less so. Only Zagreb and Osijek have a crematory, so everyone who wants a cremation service must organize a funeral there. The crematory in Zagreb was opened in 1985, and Osijek in 2021.
However, not many people from smaller cities want to be cremated. This is more common for the ones who live in Zagreb or are somehow connected to Zagreb. Classic burials are common, and when Croats say funeral, they usually refer to burials. Burials are a part of our culture.
Burials and the associated solemn ceremony take place at the city cemetery. The deceased is usually buried in the place of their birth or the place where they live.
It is common for families to own a shared grave site or tomb. Several generations are often buried in the same grave. Not owning a grave could be a big problem. Read what you should do before you die in Croatia to prepare on time in this post.
In the case of cremation, it is common to perform a solemn ceremony called ispraćaj beforehand. The family and the closest ones gather in a crematory to say goodbye to the deceased.
As with funerals, people give their condolences to the deceased’s family. This happens inside the crematory, usually followed by appropriate music. In addition, someone may give a speech in honor of the deceased person.
Croatian funerals have some standard features. However, some customs may vary depending on the region or city where a funeral is organized.
Funerals are organized by the closest family members of a deceased person, usually their spouse, children, or grandchildren. Croatian funerals are often large. Almost everyone who once knew the deceased would come, including family, relatives, friends, work colleagues, and acquaintances. In smaller cities, people who come to the funeral often know each other.
Traveling to someone’s funeral from a distant place is also common. For example, it is not strange to travel to a funeral all the way from Osijek to Dubrovnik, which is a 900-kilometer trip. Croats are a community-oriented nation. Funerals are a strong piece of Croatian culture, the same as celebrating birthdays and weddings.
Most funerals are organized during the working week (Monday-Friday), so it is common to ask your boss to leave work earlier because you must attend a funeral. Since this is a part of the culture, they will have sympathy and will not argue.
People who go to a funeral by car often invite others to accompany them, especially if they are traveling from a distant place.
The funeral organization in Croatia is stressful, and it may become chaotic if you are doing it for the first time. Some things may vary depending on where a funeral takes place and local customs.
To organize a funeral in Croatia, stick to a few basic steps. Below is a list of things you will have to deal with.
#1 Funeral company
The first mandatory step you must undertake is hiring pogrebno poduzeće (funeral company) that will handle the transport of the deceased to the morgue. They also organize funerals. Once you hire them, they will solve most of the necessary steps and organization.
The deceased’s body is kept in the morgue until the funeral. In addition, a funeral company can also manage the transport of a deceased to another city in Croatia or from outside of Croatia if needed.
An alternative option is to arrange a funeral aid organization instead of a funeral company. This is possible only if the deceased was a member of one. They will manage the funeral instead of you.
You can learn more about funeral companies, funeral aid organizations, and transport of the deceased in and outside of Croatia in this post.
#2 Osmrtnica (obituary)
After the funeral company covers the main steps, you will be notified of the date and time of the funeral. Once you know the date, invite people to the funeral. Croatian residents usually find out about the funeral either by seeing osmrtnica or through word of mouth.
What is osmrtnica?
Osmrtnica (obituary) is an announcement of someone’s death printed on paper or published in a newspaper.
The deceased’s family notifies the closest ones (extended family and friends) about their loss and the information about the funeral. Then friends call others who were connected to the deceased, and the information is quickly spread.
Osmrtnica may contain the following information on the deceased:
- Name and surname
- Date of birth
- Date of death
- Cause of death
- Family members
- Date, time, and place of funeral
Osmrtnica can usually be ordered from funeral companies. The measures of printed examples are about 210×300 mm. Once a funeral company creates osmrtnica, the family puts them in visible places. These are usually city or building bulletin boards and other appropriate places in the city or neighborhood.
Osmrtnica can also be published in newspapers or online news portals. There is usually a separate column in the newspapers specifically for osmrtnica. You can also view digital examples of osmrtnica here.
#3 Flower wreaths
Call the local flower shop to buy cvijeće (flowers) and vijenci (wreaths) for the funeral. The family usually orders the most beautiful wreath which stands out. Order one that will go on the coffin and one that will be on the grave.
In addition, you can also order flower petals, usually the ones from roses. The custom is to throw them in the grave at the end of the funeral. The flower shop will deliver the wreaths and flowers at the morgue right before the funeral.
Music at the funeral depends on the desire of the deceased or their family. You can hire a choir, singer, band, or someone else that you already know. In rural places, a family usually hires a choir or a local brass band who plays traditional Croatian songs.
#5 The priest
A priest, called svećenik or župnik in Croatian, is in charge of the solemn ceremony at the morgue and cemetery. They would do the prayers and give a short speech about the deceased if they knew them.
After the funeral, a priest holds a holy mass at the local church to honor the deceased.
#6 Karmine (wake)
It is a Croatian custom to organize a gathering called karmine after the funeral. This is usually a dinner for the closest ones to the family and the deceased.
You can hire a catering service that will deliver food to your home or go out to a restaurant. Whatever your choice is, do not handle it last minute. Otherwise, the time could already be occupied.
When attending a funeral in Croatia, it is common to bring a symbolic present of appreciation if you were close to the family or the deceased. What you will buy depends on you, your desires, and your possibilities.
If you were very close to the deceased or their family, it is common to buy a flower wreath. Wreaths are not cheap, and the regular prices vary between 300 and 600 kuna. The price depends on the type of flowers you want to include in a wreath. We usually use roses, Callas, Transvaal daisies, and Carnations.
The common thing is to order a wreath at a local flower shop. It is also common to include a short goodbye message like Posljednji pozdrav od obitelji X (Last greetings from family X). On the day of the funeral, a flower shop will deliver the wreath to the morgue. Notify them about the address and time of the funeral.
Another option is to buy a set of lanterns. The family can use them after the funeral when visiting the cemetery. You can also buy a flower that you will throw in the tomb at the end of the funeral.
And last, but not least, you can always ask the family how you can help them. They may be grateful in such a stressful period.
Let’s go through the Croatian funeral ceremony to familiarize you with the process.
Solemn ceremony at the morgue
Funerals in Croatia are usually organized in the afternoon. The attendants gather at the morgue, which is next to the cemetery. The family of the deceased arrives at least one hour before the funeral. Others come 30 minutes before the start. The dress code is decent. Do not wear colorful clothes; pick something black, dark, or neutral.
The family is in the morgue, and others are outside. The coffin with flowers is in front of them. Sometimes the picture of the deceased is in front of the coffin. People form a queue towards the family and give them their condolences.
The priest comes and gives a solemn speech and prayers at the beginning of the funeral. Music accompanies the ceremony.
Funeral at the cemetery
After the priest’s prayers, a queue is formed, and attendants go to the cemetery to the place of the burial. The coffin is at the beginning of the queue, accompanied by family and surrounded by flower wreaths that some of the participants carry.
When everyone comes to the place of burial, the priest continues with the solemn ceremony and prayers. In the end, the coffin is placed in the grave. Croatian custom is to throw soil and flower petals at the coffin. Attendants approach the grave one by one and do this. The whole burial ceremony may last for up to one hour.
In the case of cremation, this part of the ceremony is skipped. The deceased is cremated in the crematory, and their urn is placed at the cemetery a few days later.
Most of the funerals in Croatia are organized according to Christian customs. This means that after the funeral, some of the attendants attend the holy mass. The ones who do not skip this part are the family of the deceased and close friends and relatives.
In the local church, the priest serves a solemn mass in honor of the deceased. It usually lasts about half an hour. The church is usually close to the cemetery.
Karmine (wake) is a feast in honor of the deceased person that is held right after the funeral and holy mass. It is usually a dinner organized by a family at home or in a restaurant. Participants remember the deceased and take time for mourning.
Some families invite everyone who came to the funeral to karmine. However, it is more common to invite only the closest ones. Some do not even organize karmine. Instead, they buy a drink for everyone in a local cafe bar. Others prefer to get rest in silence after the funeral, so they just go home.
The amount of money you need to organize a burial in Zagreb is 12.000-15.000 kuna. This price usually includes a wooden and tin coffin with basic furniture, slippers, grave marker or cross, osmrtnice, transportation in Zagreb, newspaper notice, arrangements for the coffin, music, and burial costs at the cemetery.
Additional costs are charged for dressing the deceased, a better wooden coffin, use of a cooling chamber for several days, flowers, additional advertisements in newspapers, buying a grave, dinner after the funeral, and everything else.
The cost of cremation in Zagreb is 1.900 kuna, and the cost of cremation accompanied by a solemn ceremony is 2.500-2.800 kuna.
A price list of all services at Zagreb city cemeteries is available here.
Prices in other Croatian cities depend on the city. They may be slightly different or lower, but they are not cheap.
Here are the possible funeral costs:
- Grave sites
- Entry to the grave register
- Grave devices
- Grave frames
- Cooling chamber
- Urn cassettes
- Cross engraving
- Cross gilding
- Cross silvering
- Ceremony of the priest
- Holy mass
If you need to transport the deceased to another city in Croatia or from outside of Croatia, you will be charged an additional cost. View how to transport the deceased person to or from Croatia in our post on what happens right after death, available here.
It is possible to reduce the funeral cost if you join a funeral aid organization on time. You can also learn more about it here.
Croatian funeral vocabulary
Phrase: pogrebno poduzeće
Meaning: funeral company
Phrase: posmrtna pripomoć
Meaning: funeral aid organization
Word: sprovod, pogreb
Phrase: sveta misa
Meaning: holy mass
View our series on how to die in Croatia:
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- HZZO list of local health insurance offices
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Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. It is important to understand that Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change and each personal case is individual and different rules may apply. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant. We can recommend one if you contact us.