Gingerbread craft from Northern Croatia

Gingerbread craft from Northern Croatia

The licitar heart, probably the most beautiful souvenir you can buy in northern Croatia, takes only a few ingredients to make – some water, flour and sugar. Even though it’s edible, this souvenir is designed to bring joy to the giftee, and make any space where it’s on display feel warmer and more cheerful, especially at Christmas time, when it’s used to decorate the Christmas tree. Its shape, the heart, is no coincidence –these traditional items are made with lots of love, and the knowledge of producing them has been carefully preserved and passed down through the centuries in its original form.

 

The gingerbread craft dates back to the Middle Ages, primarily to the convents and monks all across Europe who worked diligently to produce votive candles, gingerbread cookies and even some beverages from honey and wax, among other things. As the craft made its way to Croatia, it was slowly taken up by laymen and became a trade, and thus a wonderful tradition was born in northern Croatia, particularly in Zagreb, Karlovac, Varaždin, Samobor, Koprivnica and Marija Bistrica, lasting to this day. It was mostly men that produced these items. Licitari, as they were called, were well-respected craftsmen, and each had his own particular style that was reflected in the sugar-paste decorations applied on the surface.

 

The natural white, yellow and green pigments were based on secret recipes and were used to dip the licitar hearts after they were done. The distinctive red colour became specific to gingerbread products originating in these parts. Through hard work and long tradition, licitar hearts became a colourful and unique symbol of Croatia and an original souvenir. The colourful licitar products, which can take on the form of wreaths, horseshoes, mushrooms, birds and horses, can be further decorated with small mirrors and messages of love, which reveal the true creativity of the artists. The licitar heart is one of the most beautiful gifts to share with a loved one and a sign of loyalty. Don’t wait for a special occasion to give someone a licitar heart as a present; use it to show your appreciation of your loved ones – or those you wish were your loved ones – each day!