By accepting Christianity and Christian culture and civilization, Croatian rulers accepted European ideals as well, and established their own chancelleries by following in the footsteps of European rulers. That is why the dating of the oldest Croatian documents was deeply-rooted in the Christian era and Christian holidays dated from the birth and incarnation of Jesus.
King Petar Krešimir IV, for instance, granted a benefice to the Benedictine monastery of St. John the Baptist which exempted it from paying all taxes in “1059, in the Year of theIncarnation of Jesus Christ, our Lord.” Moreover, Dalmatian bishops and the bishops from northern Adriatic diocese held a synod in the presence of Petar Krešimir IV on Christmas 1066.
On this occasion, the nun Cika from the Zadar Convent of St. Mary applied to Petar Krešimir IV to exempt her convent from the payment of local taxes, which he did. These privileges were confirmed to the monastery by Krešimir’s successor, the new Croatian King Dmitar Zvonimir, beginning with the words: “In the name of the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, in the year of our Lord 1075.” There are a number of other Croatian medieval charters which are dated according to Christ’s birth or resurrection.
The presence of Christmas is also shown by the many beautiful Christmas carols. It is interesting that the Croats have more than 500 (five hundred) Christmas carols. There are Christmas verses that can have a dozen of different melodies, varying considerably from region to region.
The number of Croatian Christmas carols is surprisingly large even in world’s proportions. The oldest preserved texts of Croatian Christmas carols are from 1380, kept in th Paris Song Book, within the Croatian Glagolitic book called the Paris Miscellany, kept in the Bibliotheque nationale in Paris, sign. Code slave 11.
Scenes of the birth of Jesus Christ can be found in the oldest Croatian sculptures and paintings. Almost every cathedral in Croatia has them, and more than a few rural churches are decorated with such representations of Christ’s birth. Among the oldest and most valuable art works containing Christmas themes and messages is the portal of the cathedral in Trogir. On this thirteenth century masterpiece, Master Radovan succeeded in connecting scenes of Christ’s birth, the journey of the Three Kings and the adoration of the shepherds.
The richness of the Christmas table has always had a kind of magical meaning, since it was believed that plenty of food in the old year would ensure plenty during the entire following year.
Christmas Eve is traditionally spent in vigil, symbolically accompanied by making light in various ways, with candles or by maintaining a fire in the fireplace where the Yule-log is burned. The name for the day before Christmas Day is derived from the archaic Croatian word bodar or bader which means to be awake; this word clearly indicates that it is a night when a vigil will be kept in the expectation of the birth of Christ. The joyous moment of the Nativity is awaited throughout Croatia at midnight masses called polnocka. The celebration of the most popular mass is marked with numerous Croatian Christmas carols that echo in homes under the decorated Christmas trees until the Epiphany, January 6.