Here we are with another Quick Croatian Class. You seem to be enjoying the set of blogs and episodes under this name. By the way, you might have noticed that this podcast covers so many different topics. You can find them organized in the main menu, under PODCAST. It contains a dropdown menu, and it contains all the different topics. If you’re interested in just some of the things I share, such as Folk Customs, or Legends& Mysteries, or Curious Personalities, or Quick Croatian Class, click on that, and only the relevant episodes will show up.
In these past few months, it so turned out that I prepared a bunch of seasonal episodes. There were several episodes inspired by the Halloween season, and then, throughout December, you’ve been listening to the episodes inspired by the Christmas season in Croatia. It’s about time, then, I tell you more about the names of various holidays in Croatia. Maybe you can use some of this word wisdom for your holiday greetings this year.
I’m going to cover various holidays, but let’s start with the ones that are currently on our minds. Let’s start with Christmas!
In Croatia, Christmas is Božić. This literally means Little God. Bog is God, and božić is a little god. Don’t be surprised if you meet someone from Croatia with the last name Božić. It is a common last name. What’s interesting is that, when someone has that last name, we don’t really relate it to Christmas. The word is exactly the same as Christmas, it sounds the same, but we don’t think twice about it. It’s just a rather usual last name, it doesn’t even remind us of Christmas. Kind of strange, right? In fact, if you meet someone of the last name Božić, and tell them: “Oh, my good friend Christmas!” or make a similar joke… chances are it’s going to take them a while until they get the joke.
We can be very mean towards each other as kids, mocking our last names. But I’ve never heard anyone making any comments on the last name Božić. My last name, for instance, is Silla. Sila means “force” in Croatian. Every time a new Star Wars movie comes out, here we go again… There is no comment or a joke that you can make that my family members haven’t heard yet. We will politely endure it with a smile, but we’ve heard that one before. May Sila be with you. Sila awakens.
If that’s not enough, there is an old song Padaj silo i nepravdo! (Down with force/violence and injustice), and the song turned into a saying. We use it for people who don’t hesitate to follow their goals (especially kids when they will do anything to get something), even that’s not really what the song is about. Easy to guess, sila i nepravda is another nickname that I get just because the expression contains the word sila.
Btw, the song was popularised in a 1969 movie Bitka na Neretvi (The Battle of Neretva or Case White). It’s a movie that was filmed in the times of Yugoslavia and it popularised some heroic WW2 partisan deeds.
Not to be confused with The Battle of Sutjeska, another movie, where Richard Burton played Tito. Case White also had an international crew, such as Franco Neri, Yul Brynner, and Orson Welles.
Hey, the song sounds a bit like Deck the Halls. Try to imagine… Tis the season to be jolly… Padaj silo i nepravdo…
Another fun fact: even though that song is now mainly associated with the partisans, it was originally created to celebrate another heroic rebellion led by the legendary Matija Ivanić against Venetians on the Croatian island of Hvar back in the 16th century.
Ok… now all of this was an unexpected detour from the Christmas holiday greetings. Thanks for sticking around. You know what? I think I’m going to file this episode under the Train of Thought series, too.
Well, at least we learned another Croatian word: sila – that’s force, remember?
Where were we? Christmas is Božić.
Merry Christmas is sretan Božić. If you ever come to Croatia in December, you might find some postcards or notice some signs saying Čestit Božić, but I hardly ever hear anyone saying that. At least that one will be easy to remember. You could translate čestit to chaste! Cool, the word sounds almost the same in both of our languages. That’s convenient!
I would highly inspire you to learn the most commonly used greeting, and that’s Sretan Božić. That’s because the word sretan comes in handy for all holidays.
Sretan Uskrs – Happy Easter.
Sretan rođendan – Happy birthday
Sretna nova godina – Happy New year!
Oh, no, what happened there! Sretan, sretan, and then all of the sudden, sretna! Well, that’s because a year is of female gender in Croatian, and adjectives, such as happy, also change in gender. So, Christmas is male – sretan Božić (happy – masculine – Christmas). And Year is female – sretna nova godina (happy – new-feminine – year).
Usually, when a word ends in an a, you can guess that it’s of the female gender.
If you think this subtle change from sretan to sretna is complicated, then what would you say about the noun – happiness. Happiness in Croatian is – sreća. It actually grammatically makes sense, because the t often turns into ć under some circumstances in Croatian. But I’m not here to discourage you from learning a few Croatian words, so please forget everything you’ve read in the past minute or so:)
Let’s go back to the holiday greetings. Sretan Uskrs is Happy Easter. Don’t you just love the words with nothing but consonants? Uskrs is spelled u-s-k-r-s, so it’s 4 consonants in a row. This word means Resurrection.
Sretna nova godina means happy new year. Nova is obviously new. You might have heard a similar phrase if you’ve ever seen that Russian boy band Steklovata, whose video Novi god went viral once. Russian and Croatian languages have some similarities, although it’s a completely different language.
Sretan rođendan is happy birthday. Please, don’t complain too much about the word rođendan, do you know how long does it take us to learn how to spell birthday properly? The translation is almost literal. Dan is a day. Some people also celebrate their name day – imendan. Name is ime, day is dan – ime dan – imendan. Birthday – rođendan. Rođendan, imendan, see the logic in it? You can also say sretan imendan. At the moment, I can’t remember any other happy – sretan greeting.
If you’ve accomplished something, took a big milestone in life, such as graduated, got married, you can use the word Čestitam! – I congratulate you.
How about some other holidays or important days in Croatia? How do we call them?
Let’s go back to Halloween. I already explained in one of the previous episodes the origin of the Croatian name for it. We call it Noć vještica. Noć is night and vještice are witches. The night of the witches. Here’s a cool mnemotechnic to help you remember how to say day and night in Croatia. Just play a game: dan-noć (day-night). It’s also a very good exercise. One person (and that can be you, so you can practice your words) keeps saying dan – noć, in any order you wish. When you say dan – they have to get up and stand, when you say night-noć, they have to crouch. If they do the wrong thing (and you’re trying to confuse them), they’re out. Dan – noć – noć – noć – dan…
What other holidays are there? Independence day – day is dan, so that’s easy, and independence is nezavisnost – that’s definitely not easy. Dan nezavisnosti. Black Friday – that’s Black Friday. We use English for that. Cyber Monday. Equally. We adopted those only a few years ago and we still don’t fight for TVs or camp in front of the stores. Probably because the discounts are not that respectable.
Oh, it just occurred to me! You might want to know how we say Jingle Bells in Croatian. It’s such a cute word. It’s zvončići. Zvončići, zvončići…How cute is that?
Ok, I think that could be too much for a single Quick Croatian Class:) For now, maybe it’s most important to remember: Sretan Božić, and Sretna nova godina.
Hope you will find the reason to use those in the weeks to come. I would love to end this episode with a nice greeting from me to you. Unfortunately, that’s not possible. There is an old superstition that it’s bad luck to receive good wishes from a woman first on Christmas or on New Year’s Day. In fact, this tradition was so present, that some Croatian villages used to agree with each other, who was to visit all of the houses. It was usually a young handsome man who paid a visit to everyone early in the morning, thus securing good luck to the whole village in the year to come.
The next episode will be this year’s last one, and also this season of Croatia Underrated’s last one.
It is another one inspired by the Christmas season. I recently visited a town called Marija Bistrica, well known for some unique traditional crafts, including the craft (or art, let’s call it an art) of making this region’s favorite Christmas tree ornament.
Until then, may Iva the Force be with you. Haha.