Our friends the 6-Monthers, baby boomers Florence and Mike Lince, move to different places around the world every six months, and they’ve just had the Christmas of a lifetime … without a single flake of snow.
As expats who are usually not home with family and friends during the holidays, we have always tried to immerse ourselves in the culture and the traditions of the country we have adopted during our 6 months. As Christmas approaches, instead of feeling sad or missing our families, we look around and see what traditions or holiday events we can attend in our new country. In doing this, we have enjoyed multiple Independence Days, May Day festivities, and feast days for many saints, among other holidays.
In Croatia, one of their national holidays is the feast day of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas is the Patron Saint of sailors and fisherman and his feast day is December 6th. Yes, this is the same St. Nicholas who in our own world is Father Christmas (Santa Claus) and children do receive small presents on this day.
Since the town of Sibenik sits on the waterway that leads from the Krka River to the Adriatic Sea, many people here make their living as either sailors or fishermen. There stands in the old part of town a tiny church honoring St. Nicholas which is only open for three days every year.
The church is decorated with nautical flags, and model boats are hung from the ceiling. These boats represent the boats that will run in the Sibenik Regatta, an annual race held to celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas and to give him thanks for another safe year of life on the water.
Boats come from Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia to race for the first place prize of a trophy. This year Mike got to ride on one of the boats and helped with the yeoman’s work of keeping the boat from keeling over. There were 35 boats in the race and Mike was part of a four-man crew on the boat called Champagne. Florence opted to be on the much larger (and much warmer) observation boat (okay, in plain language, she partied on a yacht) while taking pictures of the boats in the race.
It was a bright and sunny day and the sailboats whizzing around with the centuries-old city of Sibenik in the background certainly made it a special experience. Of course seeing Santa water-skiing by as the cannon sounded to begin the race, or in getting to meet St. Nicholas himself, made this a very special experience.
Sibenik is a town of 46,000 residents and many of them were out to enjoy the beautiful winter day and to watch the sailboats parading up and down Sibenik Bay. This was just one festivity marking the upcoming holidays that is not celebrated back home but which means a great deal to the people of the land we currently call home. We loved sharing this holiday with them in our small way.