a croatian christmas

December 19, 2012  in handmade goodness, inspiring places

A traditional Croatian decoration - by Sania Pell

Every year I decorate my tree in a mixture of these charming handmade Croatian decorations called ‘licitar’. This year is no different with the children helping me to hang them, carefully placing the galloping horses around the bottom branches of the tree. The top of the tree, where the children cannot reach, is hung with the smaller hearts, all slightly different, bought and collected over the years as our trees have grown to fit the spaces we live in. I have bought more of these gorgeous decorations every time I visit Zagreb.

Handmade Croatian Christmas decorations - photo by Sania Pell

They remind me of my childhood too. We always decorated the tree on Christmas Eve to the sound of Croatian carol singing and these decorations are unique to the Zagreb area. I love their homemade, naive and folkloric quality and I have not seen anything quite the same anywhere else. They are made from a type of honey dough, dipped in a red glaze and intricately decorated with fine piped icing, mirrors added for a little sparkle and sometimes a touch of découpage too. I painted this freehand Christmas tree on to a blank canvas for a bit of fun and to make it a feature.

Handmade Croatian Christmas decorations - photo by Sania Pell

Traditional Croatian decorations - by Sania Pell

They can be bought in various shapes and sizes such as hearts, horses, horseshoes, boots, birds, cherries and wreathes, and although they are sometimes referred to as gingerbread they don’t in fact contain any ginger.

Handmade traditional Croatian decoration - photo by Sania Pell

Amazingly their origin dates back to the 16th century where decorated cakes were made in convents, in intricately carved moulds, and were sold in fairs and church festivals. In 2010 this style  of Croatian craft was added to a UNESCO heritage list in order to help preserve its cultural significance. Nowadays the heart shapes are also given at Valentine’s Day and ‘volim te’ means ‘I love you’ in Croatian.

Handmade traditional Croatian decoration - photo by Sania Pell

You can have a go at making your own if these inspire you, it shows how they are made here and you can buy them direct from Zagreb here.

I hope you like them as much as I do, they really are one of my favourite things.

Sretan Božić! (HappyChristmas!)


Comment (RSS)  |  Trackback



  1. Ninette says:

    Wow! Those are amazing! It is always nice to learn about other countries Christmas traditions, and I love colourful ornaments – especially the gingerbread type ones! Thank you for posting it!

  2. Gudy Herder says:

    They remind me of the German lebkuchen.
    All handmade and folkloric things represent so well the Christmas season. Beautiful picture story, Sania!

  3. dear sania, what a wonderful post! i`m also croatian and love the decoration, it`s so folkloristic 🙂 ja volim tvoj blog, sretan bocic, dunja

  4. Ana says:

    Dear Sania,
    this post warmed my heart and made me homesick! (since I am Croatian living in London! 🙂
    Wishing you wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year,

  5. Looks gorgeous! happy happy christmas! xx

  6. Valentina says:

    Dear Sania, I’m too late for Sretan Božič, but it is still time to wish you Sretna nova godina 2013 :). I’ve been following your blog and this is first time to leave a reply. I come from Slovenia, wich is very close to Croatia and we allso have similar decorations hire, but we call them “lectar”. It is tradicional thing and pepole use to give it to each other at a very special ocasions. Allso if you love someone it is nice to give them lectar heart….There is even a very popular traditional restaurant in Radovljica near Bled that is called Lectar, it is very nice if you will maybe wisiting this part of Europe.
    I like your blog very much, specially the diy and craft part. I’m art historian by profession but crafter and hobby decorator by heart.

  7. erica says:

    Love this post! I’m half Croatian but don’t know any traditions of my heritage despite only being second generation American on that side of my family. So it was really neat to check in on your blog and find this post and learn a little about my culture, as well as visit the company’s website that makes them- my family is from the Zagreb area so these would make great gifts- thank you!

  8. Catherine says:

    Bonjour Sania,
    I like your blog very much, so I check it everyday. As it has been a while since you wrote this article, I hope it is because you are doing interesting things or being somewhere on vacations and not because something bad happened to you or somebody you love.It may look weird to worry for a person I don’t know… well, as you share things you like (and I like too as I keep on reading)you became somebody I apprecied.
    Anyway, I wanted to send you my best wishes.

  9. Sania Pell says:

    Thank you everyone, it’s lovely to hear from people with connections to that part of the world!

    @Catherine Thank you for your sweet words, it’s lovely to know you visit so often. I have been very busy since Christmas with work and family, organising shoots and trips and there never seems to be enough hours in the day. The last three weeks have gone in a flash but I hope to be able to find time for more posts soon. Merci.
    Sania x

  10. gabi says:

    Glad that You like croatian handmade decorations 🙂
    I hope my sister that lives in england will get me one of your books 😉
    Zagreb (Croatia)

  11. travis danner says:

    Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful post.
    Thank you.

  12. […] Imágenes: saniapell, 101woonideeen, poppytalk, houseandhome, mespetitesmainsmagazine, huisliefhuis, lovelylife, seasons Compártelo:Google+ Elisa L. (NovenoCe)Me gusta:Me gusta Cargando… Esta entrada fue publicada en Inspiración, Navidad y etiquetada christmas tree, DIY, Navidad por Elisa L. (NovenoCe). Guarda enlace permanente. […]

  13. […] 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 This entry was posted in Christmas Traditions, DIY Projects. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  14. […] Imágenes: saniapell, 101woonideeen, poppytalk, houseandhome, mespetitesmainsmagazine, huisliefhuis, lovelylife, seasons Contenido relacionadoDIY: Pequeños detalles navideñosNoveno Ce se viste de NavidadIdeas para envolver regalosMesas navideñas Tagged on: christmas tree, DIY, Navidad By Elisa L. | 29 noviembre, 2013 | Inspiración | 2 Comments | […]

  15. […] Hunter Interior / 6 – Jaymee Srp / 7 – The Jungalow / 8 – MPMK / 9 – Sania Pell / 10 – French by Design / 11 – How to Decorate / 12 – Att Pynta / 13 – […]

Leave a Reply



Sania Pell freelance interior stylist London.

Sania Pell is a freelance interior stylist, art/creative director and consultant based in London. She is a Contributing Stylist at Elle Decoration magazine, with whom she has worked for over 20 years, and is well known for bringing a unique aspect to photographic shoots for national publications, leading international brands and retailers as well as style consultancy for architects and property developers. She is the author of best-selling book The Homemade Home and The Homemade Home for Children. A trained, former textile designer, Sania is also involved in many multi-disciplinary creative projects.

To enquire about commissioning Sania for commercial or editorial projects, please use the contact form.

Read biography



To enquire about commissioning Sania for commercial or editorial projects, please use the form below.

Please note we do not accept advertising, sponsored posts or guest writers on the blog.

Please click here to agree to be contacted by Sania Pell. Your data will not be shared with third parties. View the privacy policy via the link below.