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Licitar: What is It? Why is It Important for Croatians?

Licitar is a colorful honey cake from Croatia. It has a secret recipe passed down through family trades. Come with us and find out more! It’s edible, but it’s more about looking beautiful. Usually, it’s bright red and comes in different shapes and sizes. People hang small licitari on their Christmas trees, like gingerbread hearts and cherries. Bigger ones are for special gifts.

Licitar What is It Why is It Important for Croatians1

Embedded in the tapestry of Croatian tradition is the practice of gifting a gingerbread heart, a heartfelt gesture through which a young man conveys his love and admiration to a young woman. This age-old custom finds its greatest expression on Valentine’s Day, the ultimate celebration of love. Its enduring legacy is immortalized in Krešimir Baranović’s renowned ballet, ‘The Auctioneer’s Heart,’ a performance celebrated on stages worldwide. 

The Rich Heritage of Licitars: A Sweet Tradition in Croatia

The tradition of crafting licitars has its roots in the Middle Ages, particularly during the 16th and 17th centuries. In those times, monasteries across Europe used intricately decorated wooden molds to create these cakes. This craft evolved into a specialized skill in the Eastern Alpine region, gradually spreading to other parts of Central Europe, including the Pannonian regions of Croatia. 

In the 18th and 19th centuries, cities like Zagreb, Karlovac, Koprivnica, Samobor, and Varaždin saw the rise of highly regarded auctioneers who were skilled craftsmen. They produced a variety of items from dough and wax, including licitars, gingerbread, candles, wax votive gifts, and beverages like gvirc and medic. These goods were featured at fairs and events tied to religious festivities, lending a charming and distinctive ambiance to the market stalls. On November 15, 2010, the tradition of making licitars was designated as part of UNESCO’s Intangible World Heritage in Europe. 

Source: Wikipedia

The custom of gifting licitars as tokens of affection, especially in the form of gingerbread hearts, has deep roots in Croatian culture. It was highlighted in K. Baranović’s ballet ‘Licitarsko srce.’ Decorating Christmas trees with these miniature licitars is another cherished tradition. Thanks to the remarkable skills and unique painting techniques passed down through generations, gingerbread has become a national symbol and an iconic Croatian traditional souvenir. 

Creating Delightful Licitari

The charm of licitari is quite evident. They beautify spaces, and both giving and receiving them brings joy. Making your own licitari can be a satisfying endeavor, even if they may not match the expertise of seasoned artisans. It offers plenty of room for creativity and personal touch. You can achieve good results using simple ingredients. 

To begin, you mix ginger yeast with a dough made from flour, water, and sugar. Roll out the dough and shape it with cookie cutters. Then, you place the shaped dough on a baking sheet and bake it until it turns slightly yellow. 

For smaller cookies, attach two together with a thick paste made from flour and water, adding a string for hanging. Dip these licitari into a liquid mixture of regular gelatin, colored with edible powdered coloring (like the one used for Easter eggs). Hang them to dry. 

Lastly, comes the decoration part, using edible icing. This may involve some complex recipes. Load a paper tube or cake decorating syringe with the icing mixture and decorate the licitari with white swirls, colorful flowers, green “grass,” and more. The best part about licitari is that if you’re not happy with the result, you can always enjoy eating them. 

Savor the Sweetness: Licitari, Jewelry, and Shopping Adventures in Zagreb

Licitari in Zagreb are like little bursts of happiness! These colorful gingerbread cookies have a special place in our hearts, and they’ve become a symbol not just of Croatia but of our vibrant capital, Zagreb. Now, what’s even more exciting is that the lovely patterns and designs of licitari aren’t just confined to cookies. You can find them on jewelry in many charming stores along the bustling Ilica Street. 

Licitar What is It Why is It Important for Croatians1 Source Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

When you’re touring our city, don’t miss the chance to check out these shops, because you might just stumble upon licitar-inspired jewelry that’s not only beautiful but also a wonderful way to take a piece of our culture back home with you. Imagine wearing a necklace with a licitar heart or earrings with delicate licitar patterns – it’s like adorning yourself with a touch of Croatia’s history and traditions. 

So, dear visitors, as you explore the charming streets of Zagreb, make sure to dedicate some time to discover these licitar-themed treasures. It’s a fantastic way to combine a bit of shopping with a cultural experience. You’ll find these goodies perfect for keeping as a memory of your visit or gifting to your loved ones. Happy shopping, and may your adventure be as sweet as licitari! 

Discover the Magic of Zagreb!

In the heart of Zagreb, licitari bring sweetness and culture to life. These vibrant gingerbread symbols not only delight your taste buds but also serve as wearable tokens of Croatia’s rich traditions. The jewelry stores along Ilica Street hold these edible inspirations, inviting you to take a piece of Zagreb’s charm with you wherever you go. So, don’t miss the opportunity to explore these delightful treasures and embark on a shopping adventure that combines culture, style, and a dash of sweetness. Come, discover the magic of licitari, and make your visit to Zagreb truly unforgettable! 

Your CTC Team

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