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Licitari - the sweet traditional heritage of the Croatian gingerbread craft

Licitari - the sweet traditional heritage of the Croatian gingerbread craft

Traditional Croatian gingerbreads that will warm your heart

Croatia has many natural beauties, but also a well-preserved cultural heritage of which it is proud and which, due to its recognizability, is included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.
The material cultural heritage is included in tourist guides, and attracts visitors with its beauty and history. In order to preserve the traditions and customs of an area and prevent them from being forgotten, UNESCO protects the intangible cultural heritage. Intangible cultural heritage makes an area and the way of life in that area unique, and Croatia is proud of its 17 intangible cultural assets that are included in the UNESCO list.

The tradition of making gingerbread called Licitar was added to the UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage List on November 15, 2010. If you want to find out more about this sweet and unmistakable cultural asset and have already booked one of our villas, continental Croatia is the perfect choice for your vacation!
The gingerbread Licitar refers to a sweet durable pastry, that is produced by a so-called medicar who also makes other cakes and honey drinks. Gingerbreads have been produced in the area of the city of Zagreb, Karlovac, Samobor and Varazdin since the 16th and 17th centuries. At that time wooden molds were used for the production of gingerbread, which have now been replaced by tin molds.


The most common gingerbread mold is the heart, followed by the horse, mushroom, bird and wreath. Gingerbreads are glazed in red, yellow, white and green, and decorated with a sugar mixture. Small mirrors, pictures and verses are placed on the painted and decorated gingerbreads. Although they are made of edible dough that hardens after drying, they are mainly used as decoration and gifts. According to an old tradition, young men give the gingerbread to their chosen ones as a token of their affection. A special occasion to give a heart-shaped gingerbread was Valentine’s Day. Gingerbreads of all shapes have been also used as decorations for the Christmas tree.

The importance of gingerbread as a symbol of Croatia is also evidenced in the ballet Gingerbread Heart, which premiered in the Croatian National Theater in 1924. The choreography for the ballet was made by Margarita Froman, prima ballerina of the Moscow Bolshoi Theater. The ballet Gingerbread Heart is very cheerful and playful, and has achived great success in Croatia and the world. The theme of the ballet is the love of a boy for a girl, and it contains local tunes that the audience has recognized at home and abroad.

The ballet takes place on the square in front of the church, where a young man asks for the hand of a girl who rejects him and goes to church. Finall, the young man gives her a gingerbread heart as a sign of his love. The people around them dance and celebrate their love. In addition to the heart, other forms of gingerbread are also shown, which figures come to life and dance to the sound of bells and bagpipes. In the last scene of the ballet, the girl gives the boy a gingerbread heart, with which she returns his love. Then the two gingerbread hearts embrace and perpetuate their love for one another.


The gingerbread has become a trademark of Croatia, especially in the central and lowlands. Licitars are produced in family businesses and can be bought at fairs or in small shops near cultural sights. The most famous form of gingerbread is the heart, which adorns numerous postcards and souvenirs from the city of Zagreb. Although gingerbread can be decorated with various bright colors, the color red has become a characteristic of gingerbread. Precisely because of its long tradition and recognizability, Licitar was included in the UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

For those who would like to try their hand at making gingerbread hearts, there are also workshops. There, the dough is made, which is modeled and baked, decorated, painted and finally the finished gingerbread can be taken home.
When making gingerbread, the participants choose the shape and size of the pastry they want to make themselves. The gingerbread moulds, also called steheri, are the most important tool when making gingerbread, and they are made by masters who have a lot of experience and knowledge. Up to 12 people can participate in the workshop. A registration is required. We are sure that you will enjoy making your own gingerbread, which will not only be an individual souvenir, but also a great decoration for your home.

Petra Stazic

+385 1 222 70 50