• Ivica Profaca

Day to Remember Ancestors



There is nothing special about seeing flowers on sale around market in Split, but these days there is a difference. Not only market, and not only in Split; streets of Dalmatian and Croatian cities are flooded with chrysanthemums. It is usual picture in days before November, 1, All Saints' Day, important day in local, and Catholic, tradition.

On this occasion most of the people will pay tribute to their beloved ones who passed away, to lay flowers and remember them. Cemeteries will be glowing with candles, creating an image of dignity, almost sanctity. It might not be as picturesque as the Mexican Dia de Muertos, but Dalmatian customs are full of respect for ancestors.

Flowers and candles are usual part of this day, even though some theologists repeatedly warn that over-spending is far from the spirit of this day. And why chrysanthemums? It's hard to tell, but it's a fact that it's really rare to see them selling on any other time of the year. In some other parts of the world, it's usual to bring those beautiful flowers to a host when visiting someone. Don't do it in Dalmatia; those big white, yellow or red flowers are mostly reserved for cemeteries.

Also, although you will see some Halloween (in Croatian it's Noć vještica - Night of the Witches) decorations on sale in Croatian stores, and even parties in clubs and bars (check out events calendar), these two festivities shouldn't be mixed. It's not unusual to see or hear influential Catholic Church dignitaries calling believers to restrain from this "unholy" event. It may sound silly to give so much attention to something as innocent and benign, but local customs are local customs, aren't they? Of course, no need to worry someone will try to lynch you for dressing up or carving a pumpkin (local expat community is getting ready for this very carefully). My daughters always loved to bring some friends over at our place to carve pumpkin and have a cake-eating with masks. However, Europe (especially Mediterranean) has its own carnival time on Fat Tuesday, and trick or treating is something almost nobody practiced until few years ago.

Of course, All Saints' customs are not completely spiritual, there are some more Earthly senses to be satisfied. It's considered proper if a man gives a woman (or bring it home) some bobići (pron. bohbeechy), wonderful brown and white sweets made of almond and cocoa. As many other food habits in Dalmatia, this one probably arrived from Italy, where you can find almost the same treat called fave dei santi or fave dei morti, or simply favetti. And you don't even have to be a culinary grandmaster to make them, bobići are available in every pastry shop, even in supermarkets.

(Previously published on https://visitsplit.com/en/2056/remembering-ancestors)

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