Easter is the most important Catholic holiday celebrated after 40 days of Lent. The preparations for the celebration in Dubrovnik begin a whole week before, with a beautiful tradition.
Girls used to wash their faces in water infused with flower petals which they picked from blossomed trees and field flowers. It was believed that by doing so the appearance, as well as the mind, will remain fresh. It is a true symbol of a new beginning; a symbol of rebirth and not accidentally celebrated in spring time. This tradition has been kept alive for a long time and varies from region to region. For example, in some places, this tradition is done on Palm Sunday and in others on Holy or White Saturday, a day before Easter. Also on Palm Sunday, palm branches woven into a variety of braids and olive branches are taken to the church to be blessed. With this tradition, believers remember Jesus going into Jerusalem where people greeted him by waving palm and olive branches.
In Dubrovnik, the association “Deša” organizes workshops, where they teach all interested, how to braid palms and how to traditionally paint Easter eggs, which brings us to the next Dubrovnik and Neretva county tradition.
To paint eggs in a traditional manner, you will need the following:
Real beeswax and a bowl to melt it in, pins, eggs, natural colors, a lot of patience and a very steady hand. The wax is melted and motives, as well as words and messages, are carefully painted with pins onto the eggs. To get the color of the eggs you can see in the gallery below, women collect the shells of red onions for a period of time, put them in boiling water till the water turns the wanted color. The eggs cook till hard boiled, for about 15 minutes, in the same water, to which salt and a splash of vinegar are added. The salt is put in, to prevent the breaking of eggs and the vinegar to improve the taking in of the color. For more intense red shades, beetroot and wine are used, and for other colors various indigenous plants. When cooked in this colored water, the excess wax melts and the area around the message or motive is painted in the color chosen, making it a beautiful work of art.
The Holy Friday marks the end of Lent and is a day of fasting; one of the three commanded fasting days alongside Christmas Eve and Ash Wednesday. On these days, it is tradition not to eat anything that derives from animals, except fish. The custom is to eat till full, once that day, preferably non-fat fish. With this, we come to the traditional dish which is prepared on these three occasions; Seaman’s Cod or “Bakalar na bijelo”(Cod in Bianco).
Cod is a very healthy fish and of a strong characteristic flavor. The Seaman’s cod is prepared with cooked and partly mashed potatoes after two days of soaking in water and cooking till tender. The Cod which is used in this dish is not fresh fish but dried, which is traditionally made only for the Mediterranean market. Codfish stew is also prepared. In past, not so prosperous, times, although delicious, the Cod was considered a “poor man’s food”. A bit of Cod with a couple of kilos of potatoes would feed and satisfy a large family. Today, it has become a known and well liked delicacy; you simply must try it.
The day before Easter is a day of silence, the Holy Saturday. It is the final day of anticipation of the resurrection of Christ. Mass is not celebrated till nightfall when the Ceremony of Light begins by lighting the Easter Candle. The church is dark and the light of the Easter Candle is transferred onto candles of believers inside the church, symbolizing the beginning of Easter.
To the night Mass on Holy Saturday and the morning of Easter, it is custom to take a food basket to church for blessing. Traditionally, the basket contains young cheese, green onions, eggs, salt and sweet Easter bread “Pinca“, which is then eaten for breakfast on Easter. It is a very well preserved tradition in which the whole family participates.
This year, a number of restaurants in Dubrovnik, have prepared special menu offers for Easter Lunch. Traditional and modern interpretations of food, which were served for centuries on the occasion of the most important Catholic holiday. The tastes and scents of spring, wild asparagus, young lamb and peas, refined spices and new interpretations of traditional dishes await you in Dubrovnik.
You can experience the tradition and enjoy the tastiest side of Easter.