I have now lived in Croatia for six whole weeks although it feels like years. This is a predominantly Roman Catholic country, and as such, they have a number of holidays focused on celebrating prominent Catholics from their very long history going back hundreds and thousands of years.

Unlike in the States where Easter and Christmas are the only state-sanctioned religious holidays, Croatia and Italy alike have a number of state holidays commemorating saints and significant moments in religious history: St. Joseph, St. Peter and St. Paul, Corpus Christi, Assumption of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, St. Stephen, Epiphany Day, Lateran Pacts.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll accept any excuse to get rowdy and have a party, but this is truly a new concept for me. There is no patron saint of Dallas. Well, perhaps Mark Cuban, but the post office will definitely be open on his birthday.

Here in Split, they celebrate Saint Dujam (or Saint Domnius), known as the patron saint of Split. As the story goes, he was sent by Saint Peter to evangelize Dalmatia (the region of Croatia where Split is located). In the early first century, the Emperor Diocletian, who frankly wasn’t a fan of Christianity and sounds like a total a-hole, ordered Dujam put to death along with seven other bishops.

Despite Diocletian’s power play, there are signs of Dujam all over his namesake palace today. Today, Dujam’s remains are resting comfortably in Diocletian’s mausoleum in the St. Dujam Cathedral located in the heart of the emperor’s palace. Revenge is a dish truly best served cold.

Naturally, the palace (which compromises most of the city center) is the heart of where this celebration takes place today. For two weeks in May, the center of Split is flooded with cultural performances, public masses, concerts, art exhibits, sporting events, an open-air bazaar, and raffles culminating in a one big feast and a spectacular fireworks show over the water. There are endless amounts of drinking, laughing, carousing and dancing.

When traveling to other countries, the best way to truly understand the local culture is to experience their holidays and see how they celebrate. The Croatians truly know how to party.

Here is a little bit of what we saw…

The waterfront promenade outside the palace was lined with an open-air bazaar with stalls selling snacks, toys and trinkets of all kinds.

From toy swords and little guitars…

…to handmade rolling pins and cooking utensils…

…and locally harvested lavender.

On the feasting day, there was a concert that went on to the early hours of the morning. All national pride, all the time.

There were many activities for the kids. I almost jumped into one of the baskets on this swing.

As night fell, out came the brightly-colored cotton candy.
Everyone muscled in for a seat along the water for the final fireworks show.

Only a hundred meters or so from the promenade, the fireworks exploded in front of a backdrop of cruise ships and sail boats.

Some other posts on Croatia: why i love Croatia, SplitZagreb, the kindness of strangers

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