Sunday, 24 October 2021
Gillie Sutherland Gillie Sutherland

My first Christmas in Croatia and I'm in tinsel heaven

Written by  Gillie Sutherland Nov 29, 2020

A very strange thing happened today.

I found myself deciding to buy a little extra tinsel for my Christmas tree.

These is strange for two reasons.

One, I don’t think I have bought a Christmas tree for about ten years now. I don’t usually “do” Christmas, unless it’s dressing up in an elf costume to support Santa on his charity mission. I might head down to the beach on Christmas morning for the swim, but I don’t really like the whole fuss that’s made about it each year, and the pressure and expectations of buying and going to parties.

Secondly, I have not once, in my whole life, thought that anything needed “more tinsel”, so as I am walking around Tommy supermarket in Molunat today, the fact that this even crossed my mind is astounding. It’s not even December!! What has happened to me?

Well I’m guessing this year is going to be different for a lot of people. This year has been no other year we have ever seen, so it just makes sense that it’s going to be a different kind of Christmas.

It’s been a tough year for many, there has been a lot of darkness, and it is for exactly that reason that this year we need more light and colour, and tinsel!! And the earlier the better!

This will be my first Christmas in Croatia, and I’ve decided to go “all-in”. I am from this point onwards committing to a “zero grumpiness” policy around the subject of festivities. Bring it all on!

Inspired by one of my friends from back in Devon, I have decided to embrace Christmas. Claire is festive all year round, she spent lockdown making an album up of all her favourite Christmas memories - it’s a masterpiece, I’ve seen it. She literally is Mrs Christmas, it’s November 25th and she already has all her presents wrapped.

Watching from afar via social media, and all the joy, light and colour this passion for Christmas brings, I was inspired to get involved too. So when Claire decided to launch a campaign to raise money for Hospiscare by getting people to post photographs of themselves with their decorated Christmas trees online, I was on-board right away.

Apparently posing with your Christmas tree used to be considered the “bee’s knees” back in the day, and it’s really taken off in Devon this year too. Instead of sending cards, people are posting proud photographs of themselves in their glad rags and sending wishes of love to all their friends around the world, and then making a donation to charity.

I’m all over this – spreading love on social media, saving money, being more eco-friendly, putting some light and colour into the world and feeling globally connected? Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.

It feels like the perfect timing to get started as Croatia has just shut all hospitality venues. We are fairly much in lockdown again, so it’s the perfect opportunity to start getting ready for Christmas!

So today, I am hosting my first Christmas party at home, actually just 5 of us, in a safe little bubble and we will be mostly outdoors. It’s an eclectic mix of folk coming. My friend Mark is originally from the UK but has been coming to Dubrovnik for over 15 years, got stuck here when the pandemic hit, and now is embracing being here full-time, I have Mark to thank for helping me getting organised to stay here post-Brexit.

Bihter is a beautiful woman from Bulgaria who has just come to work here in Dubrovnik. I only met her last week, but two of her passions are fishing and cats, so we were always going to hit it off. Peter was living in London when Co-Vid hit so decided to escape to Croatia. He’s originally an Aussie so I’m hoping he is going to be useful when it comes to the barbecue.

I heard the fishing boat come in this morning, so that was my cue to get up, and I managed to get a kilo of fresh fish (so fresh it was still moving!), that will be going on the fire tonight, which will be by the water under the full moonlight. The Christmas tree is up and I’m going to be adding as much light and colour as I can, maybe a bit of dancing under the moon. My Ukrainian neighbour is also coming; he is bringing the bourbon for later.

I’m here thinking to myself that Christmas really has come early in Konavle, and things may be different this year, but actually there’s no place I’d rather be.

Things don’t always turn out as you expect; sometimes they turn out better.

Read more Gillie here...  


Gillie Sutherland grew up in the north of England, before settling in Devon, but has now swapped her UK address for one on the Adriatic in the very south of Croatia, in Molunat. A professional Wellness Consultant she now runs retreats and online courses from her Konavle base. She also writes a weekly column for the Devon newspaper, The Express and Echo.

To find out more about Gillie go to



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