Take advantage of your visit to Croatia to discover a country of deep-rooted religious traditions Most Croatians are Catholic, with strongly-held beliefs and the influence of the Church in society is still very strong.
Croatia is a strongly Catholic country especially since the fall of the Soviet empire which banned all religious practice. So religion has become increasingly important, not only in the lives of Croatians but also in the public and political arenas. According to the latest statistics, nearly 90% of the population defines itself as Catholic and lives alongside three minority religions, Christian Orthodox, Islam and Judaism which between them represent little more than 5% of the population. With the end of the war in Yugoslavia, Catholic fervour gained a new impetus to become a true mark of their identity.
At the beginning of the 1990's, the Croatian Catholic Church joined up with a political organisation named HDZ, a nationalist group created by a former communist supporter. So the Church has been allowed into the political arena, to the extent that religious education has been introduced into the school curriculum. The Church is also active in matters held dear to Catholicism such as the abortion ban or the very recent opposition to same sex marriage or sex eduction in schools.
Judged to be too interventionist in a secular state, the Catholic Church is decried by politicians who accuse it of meddling in their affairs. The disconnect is clear and the Church has set itself up as the voice of the people opposing the supposedly bad politics of the Croatian state. The Catholic church has a strong influence on Croatian public life, as can be seen by the abandonment of the bill for same sex marriage.
Religious festivals play a very particular part in Croatian life, both for the faithful and the spectators who flock to see the celebrations.
During Holy Week, there are many processions of different religious orders throughout the country. During the Easter celebrations, there is a long-standing tradition of decorated eggs given to family or friends.
During the summer, Assumption is obviously a highlight of the year, particularly in the town of Rijeka in the bay of Kvarner. During your visit to Croatia, you will see huge processions where the faithful go up many steps, some even on their knees, to reach the town's Franciscan monastery.
Christmas, although a great family occasion, is also a time to take part in many pilgrimages celebrating the various saints. The faithful gather wearing traditional costumes to share a meal which is generally a pork stew served with potatoes.