“It’s another public holiday tomorrow isn’t it?” I questioned the friend opposite me in the café bar. “Yes, but I really don’t know what for….is it anti-fascism day, or something like that,” she replied. It wasn’t. Although she was close, just a few days out.
Public holidays in Croatia are like London buses. You wait for one to turn up and then four arrive at the same time. In fact, it was probably one the most important days on the Croatian calendar. But a date that has somewhere lost its meaning, lost its importance.
To be honest I can’t really blame people for not knowing what holiday they were supposed to be celebrating. As is so often the case here, it’s complicated.
“No, its Independence day tomorrow,” another friend added. “Oh, so like the 4th of July in the USA,” I replied. “No, you wrong its Statehood Day,” added another friend. “What the hell is Statehood day,” came my reply. This was getting complicated. Were we celebrating the day that Croatia became an independent state or not? “I think it’s the day when independence was declared…or maybe I’m wrong…I don’t know,” this friend looked particularly puzzled and reached for her phone to Google.
“Wait, wait, wait. I though Statehood day was at the end of May,” the friend who brought he first question jumped back into the debate. This was going on in front of me like a meeting in parliament. And all the time I was thinking “How does nobody know what the holiday is tomorrow.” Then a burst “Ah yes, got it. Yes, you are both right. This day used to be marked on the 30th of May until it was changed to the 25th of June in 2002,” said the friend reading from her phone. By now I thought I was in the middle of an Agatha Christie detective novel. There were more twists and turns than a snake in the grass.
“So we all agree its Statehood day and not Independence Day, yes?” I felt like a chairman of parliament asking for a vote. It turned out that these friends weren’t alone. Pretty much everyone I asked that day, the day before Statehood Day, had absolutely no idea why they didn’t have to go into work the next day.
I could hardly blame them. In its short history the date had already been moved once. And with this general confusion it is also hard to convince people to actually mark the day, a day when independence was declared from Yugoslavia, but it’s not Independence Day. Apart from a few messages on Facebook and at the bottom of the page in the media there were no special celebrations at all. The day came and went like any other summer’s day in Dubrovnik. In fact, people paid more attention to Jon Bon Jovi arriving than a notable day in Croatia’s short and complicated history.
In order to try and rustle up some kind of patriotic feeling the County actually gave away 210 flags to the cities and boroughs in the county. Now when you actually have to give flags away in order to raise some pride and atmosphere for any event then you probably are already fighting a losing battle.
A couple of events were held in the Old City. Again more tourists than locals, or more realistically 99 percent tourist, watched as the singers sang and the dancers danced. Again they probably had absolutely no idea why the events were taking place, they probably thought it was for their benefit.
I purposely drove around the city to hunt down these 210 donated flags. I saw zero. In fact, the only ones I did see where hanging in the shop windows of bakeries because the owners would get probably get fined if they didn’t hang them. Again forcing people to hang flags is another sign you are losing the battle.
So the day came and went. The beaches were full. The shopping centre packed. And, as Wikipedia states, the National Day of Croatia passed by like most other Tuesdays. No pomp, no ceremony, no flag waving, just a Tuesday on the beach. And this is only the 28th time this day has been celebrated. I’ll bet 100 Kunas that in another 28 years it won’t be celebrated at all. And I’ll give another 100 Kunas to anyone who actually knows the date of Croatian Independence Day.