The festa of Sveti Nikola (feast of Saint Nichols) is intensely anticipated by local children because it announces the opening of our Christmas season. Standing in front of Sveti Vlaho Church I couldn’t help noticing the giggles and excitement from the waiting children. One youngster informed me Sveti Nikola would not arrive in a glorious red sleigh driven by his reindeer and the cheers of the children soon announced his arrival in a beautifully restored antique automobile. He ascended the steps of the Church, and began to distribute locally grown delicious fresh red apples to the children. They waited patiently for their turn, faces aglow with the knowledge it is the beginning of our Dubrovnik Christmas season.
Workers began to decorate the Stradun last week with new holiday decorations. Small shop windows are now adorned with the season’s best displays and our old town Christmas tree, proudly standing tall on the Stradun, shines brightly under the morning sun. The Stradun is filled with small white wooden cabins selling homemade specialties. It is also the opening day of our Christmas Fair, the beginning of an annual holiday event. Handmade tree ornaments, sun dried figs, boxes of homemade cookies, candied orange peels and of course my very favorite kotonjata, a melt in your mouth goodie made from quince fruit.
My camera was not cooperating, frustrating my good intentions of photographing the old town events. I noticed two young men appearing to be very bored, waiting for customers, and I knew it was the perfect spot for me – the booze hut. Some might say it was a tad early in the morning for a drink, but the custom here is to begin each day with a shot of Rakija, our most popular spirit. This local homemade drink could be used to remove barnacles from small fishing boats in my humble opinion. However, it is also the base ingredient of Orahovica, a liqueur made from walnuts which I consider one of our cultural miracles. I had barely finished my drink when a smiling young Ivan returned my now correctly programed camera. I thanked him and ordered another shot of Orahovica, just a small fortification for the bus ride back to Cavtat.
As I wandered up to the bus stop, I was glowing with the same joyous feelings of the upcoming holiday season festivities. It was time to put up my Christmas decorations, filling my home with joy and happiness again. Christmas has always been my very favorite time of the year! It is the time we should open our minds and hearts and listen to the inner child which is still within all of us.
Merry Christmas, my wishes for joy, love and peace from across the pond