Christmas carols in Dubrovnik have a special place in the festive spirit of the city. These traditional Christmas carols, known as Kolende, have a long and rich history. The tradition of singing “Kolende” in Dubrovnik is believed to stretch back to the 13th century and is still alive today. Singers go from home to home and celebrate Christmas Eve, as well as Christmas day and New Year. Usually the singers take instruments, such as guitars, harmonica and mandolin, with them.
And throughout the Christmas and New Year period in Dubrovnik these singers are performing on a regular basis next to the festive wooden Christmas stands, on the Stradun, on Pile and on the Gundulic Square. The history of carols dates back far into the past, and the oldest written evidence can be found in the 13th century within the Statute of the Dubrovnik Republic from 1272. In these writings Christmas Eve is mentioned, when sailors from the Republic would enter the Rectors Palace in the Old City and sing to the Rector. The New Year singing is also mentioned in the Dubrovnik Statute, with local business men, including butchers, fishermen and bakers would sing again to the Rector and welcome in the New Year.
Kolende alive and well today in Dubrovnik
Today this ancient custom is still alive and well, especially in the historic Old City of Dubrovnik, with groups of singers going from house to house singing the carols. It is normal for the home owner to invite the groups into their home and treat them with festive delights such as dried figs, oranges, carol, desserts, juices, wine, brandy, and in recent times and money.
The lyrics to Kolende are based around Dubrovnik, with parts of the city mentioned and even street names and the patron saint – St. Blaise. You can join in the festive fun along the Stradun as the Dubrovnik vocal group “Kase” is performing regularly through the Dubrovnik Winter Festival this year.
Photos by: Dubravko Lenert