Halloween, Croatian Style

My aunt exhorted us to come back and visit for Svi Sveti over the weekend, tempting us with the promise of something special for lunch.

“You must come back for All Saints,” she said. “We’ll be killing a turkey.”

Well, who could resist?

The holiday is a very important one, and people from all over the country make the journey to their home towns to spend the weekend with their families. We had zero idea of this, of course. Our first inkling was when we tried to get on the train at Zagreb – it was completely full and we had to stand all the way to Karlovac.

“Hmm…” I said to C. “Maybe this holiday is a bit of a big deal?”

We did indeed eat a turkey for lunch, and a large chunk of piglet also.

The turkey. Before it was cooked.
The turkey. Before it was cooked.

Afterwards, we walked up the hill to the old graveyard. The wall along the road to Reštovo has been painted recently, with a picture of the church at the top of the hill.

Reštovo is a tiny place and not many bodies are buried here anymore. Most funerals are down the road in the main Kamanje graveyard. But on Saturday it was quite busy.

I’m sure many of my ancestors are buried in this little place, but the only one I know is my Stara Baka (my mother’s grandmother).

stara baka
The grave of my mother’s grandmother.

Afterwards we walked down to the main graveyard in Kamanje. I’ve never seen it so busy. Every grave was covered in candles. Unfortunately, Croatians are big fans of these ghastly plastic-covered candles and the smell of warm plastic permeated the air. Still, it was nice to see generations of families gathering around the graves of those they’ve loved and lost.

The grave of my grandparents.

We left Kamanje on Sunday afternoon and as our bus wound its way through the hills of the countryside at dusk, we saw the eerie red glow of thousands of candles burning in the village graveyards.

A graveyard on All Saints night.
A graveyard on All Saints night.

It’s not what we think of as Halloween. It was something else entirely.

For some spectacular pictures, Google “svi sveti mirogoj” (Mirogoj is the main cemetery in Zagreb)

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Nat Newman

Nat Newman is an award-winning writer of short stories, content, podcasts, feature articles, drunk text messages and, soon, a novella.


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