Christmas in Pitve

Published in Highlights

Midnight Mass comes early in Pitve, as there are too few priests on Hvar to celebrate every Mass in every working church.

Pitve's Midnight Christmas Mass is celebrated at 8.30 pm instead of midnight. This has its advantages for the very young and the elderly, who then get their normal quota of sleep and can celebrate Christmas Day feeling fresh and rested.

The 2014 Christmas celebrations in Pitve's main St. James' Church were threatened by the major works being undertaken on the access road to Gornje Pitve, the upper part of this two-part village. On Sunday December 21st, the road to the church was completely cut off by a deep trench, dug with the good purpose of burying the mains electricity cables. Mass was celebrated in the tiny chapel of St. Rocco in Donje Pitve, the lower part of the village. Fortunately it was a fine sunny day, so the many people standing outside did not suffer unduly. Mass was celebrated by Don ivica Babić, parish priest from Vrbanj. As the chapel is tiny, it was possible to follow the proceedings from outside and hear the sermon, even though the doors were closed.

The contractors promised that they would make the road to the main church accessible for Christmas, and they were true to their word. They laid the cables and covered over the trench in record time. Meanwhile, however, on Monday December 22nd a new danger loomed for Gornje Pitve residents. The contractors were heading for digging up the road right through the village, which would cut vehicle access off altogether, an isolation which would probably last until after Christmas. This called for emergency action, and Marinko Radonić rose valiantly to the task. He blocked the contractor's massive digger with his lorry and called the police, Jelsa's mayor and the town warden to inspect and intervene. Mayor Nikša Peronja was otherwise engaged, attending the annual meeting of the island's mayors with Bishop Slobodan Štambuk, so his deputy Ivo Grgičević stepped in to come to the rescue. All agreed that the village should not be cut off unnecessarily from access for the emergency services. The contractors undertook to leave the way open to one of the two off-road routes out of the village at all times. Pitve's traditional Christmas was saved.

At the start of the Christmas Midnight Mass, there is an empty cradle in front of the altar, and the altar candles, nativity scene and Christmas trees are all unlit. The first part of the liturgy consists of psalms and texts, mainly sung, with males and females singing alternate verses. As the church is well attended for this occasion, the singing is especially resonant, with Pitve's finest voices in full throttle. After the psalms comes the moment when a baby doll representing Jesus is placed in the crib, the candles on the altars are lit, the lights on the Christmas trees and nativity scene are switched on, and the church bells ring out.

As the candles are lit, the priest and altar-boys prepare for the mini-procession through the church in which the figure of the baby Jesus is symbolically presented to the congregation.

The second part of the service is a Mass with readings and Communion.

After the service, which lasts about two hours, people disperse fairly quickly, and Don Stanko proceeds to Jelsa to conduct the Midnight Mass in the main church of the parish, assisted by his deputy Don Jurica. It is a long night for the priests!

Christmas Day in Pitve is always joyful and gently festive. The church buzzes with goodwill, and the singing rings out loud and clear. A highlight of the Mass is the moment when the children light sparklers in honour of the Light which Jesus brought to the earth.

The 2014 Christmas Mass was enlivened by some specially sweet singing by the local children. They had been practising for some days under the guidance of Sandra Mileta, who accompanied them on the organ, and sisters Roza Radonić and Katarina Čadež. It was such a moving performance that the congregation burst into spontaneous applause, even though Communion was still being distributed. Having completed the Communion, Don Jurica congratulated the young singers and invited the congregation to give them an extra round of applause for good measure. Many said afterwards that the singing had made it the best Christmas Day Mass ever. See the video below, or on this link.

The music is the mainstay of religious celebrations in Dalmatia and the rest of Croatia, and long may this remain so. Music is one of the deepest roots of Dalmatian and Croatian culture. There are many fine Christmas carols which form the backdrop to this part of the year. One of the most sung is 'U sve vrime godišta', a favourite in innumerable arrangements, enjoyed by children and adults alike. A less welcome sound which has come to mark Christmas throughout Croatia is the explosion of firecrackers and fireworks. They do nothing but disturb the peace which should be a primary part of the celebrations, and every year children and adults are injured through faulty materials or mis-handling. Explosives are inappropriate for Christmas, all the more especially when there is so much violence and war damage in many parts of the world. Eco Hvar looks forward to a time when Christmas in Croatia will be celebrated using only its very real resources of peace and harmony.

After Christmas, on December 28th, Croatia's Presidential elections were held. Pitve's voters had to make a special effort to exercise their electoral rights, as the office which is used for the local voting station was almost completely cut off by the trench which had been dug for the electric cables.

The contractors had not thought, or had not been told to provide some kind of safe access. The supervisors in attendance for the voting told me they had done the best they could with some bricks they had found, but the result was far from safe or satisfactory. We can only hope that the situation will be rectified in time for the second round in the elections in a few weeks' time.

The digging progressed relentlessly, and Gornje Pitve's turn came on December 30th, just in time for the New Year. A large and powerful bulldozer-trencher cut a swathe down the village's only road.

The operation was completed with clinical efficiency, and a minimum of noise and dust. It left a neat scar the length of the road. There was one mishap when the digger cut through a water mains pipe which no-one knew about. To their credit, the Water Board arrived within five minutes, and managed to repair the damage within a couple of hours, sparing the village the discomfort of celebrating the New Year without running water.

The next part of the digging operation on January 3rd created a wider trench flanked by rubble on either side, cutting off access to the houses and fields on the north side of the road. The excavator proceeded with caution, and was supervised not only by one of the contractor's workers, but also local resident Marinko Radonić (Hero and Honorary Protector of Pitve), to avoid any repetition of hitting water pipes. Once the trench was completed, a board was placed over the gap, preserving a lifeline of communication across the village. 

In between these two parts of the road works, the New Year was celebrated as always in Pitve, with peace and quiet. Those in search of excitement headed off to Hvar Town, Split or other parts of Croatia famous for their partying. New Year's Day is the feast of St. Mary, which is not a holy day of obligation for Croatian Catholics, although most of Pitve's villagers attend the celebratory Mass anyway. The culmination of the Christmas and New Year's festivities is on January 6th, the Epiphany (Bogojavljenje) in the Catholic calendar, or the feast of the Three Kings or Magi (Tri Kralja). In the first part of the Mass, the priest blesses a large bowl of water, and then blesses the congregation, sprinkling them with the now holy water. After the Mass, many of the congregation fill small containers with the blessed water to take home. January 6th is the last day when the Christmas decorations and image of the baby Jesus are visible in the church. The Christmas trees and Nativity scene are lit up, as are the candles on the main altar. As on Christmas Day, the Mass on January 6th 2015 was enhanced by the sweet singing of the newly-formed (informal) children's choir.

In Pitve, January 6th is the day that the priest visits the whole village, performing the little service of blessing the houses for all the residents who wish to host the ceremony. The village is always tidied up for the occasion. In January 2015, there was a lot of tidying to do, what with the stormy weather of the previous week and the road digging. For the house blessing, the altar boys accompany the priest. Pitve seems well supplied with youngsters willing to be altar boys at present, so it has not yet engaged girls to perform the tasks, as has happened in neighbouring Vrisnik. However, girls have sometimes accompanied the group for the Pitve house blessing, especially in years when there have been fewer altar boys.

The youngsters are always in a state of high excitement. They are given gifts of sweets or other delicacies, and it is the custom for householders to give a small gift of money both to them and to the priest, although this is not compulsory. Parish priest Don Stanko always conducts the blessing with calm and dignity, not an easy task when the youngsters around him are champing at the bit to enjoy their treats or make mischief!

© Vivian Grisogono 2014 - 2015

 

Media

Pitve's children singing on Christmas Day Video: Vivian Grisogono
You are here: Home highlights Christmas in Pitve

Eco Environment News feeds

  • Why people should be worried about the blazes and increased deforestation in Brazil

    Thousands of fires are burning in Brazil, many of them in the world’s biggest rainforest, which is sending clouds of smoke across the region and pumping alarming quantities of carbon into the world’s atmosphere.

    Continue reading...

  • The blaze in the Amazon shows the need for a green Marshall plan to allow poorer parts of the world to benefit from low-carbon tech

    Judging by the latest opinion polls, the public is ripe for some green austerity. Ipsos Mori says that 85% of Britons are concerned about climate change, with 52% admitting they are very concerned. These are the highest figures since the pollster started tracking opinion in 2005. Given the spate of extreme weather-related events, and the pictures of the torching of the Amazon rainforest, such concern is both logical and predictable. In this country, the climate deniers have been put to flight.

    What the polls don’t show is whether the public is willing to translate this concern into action; whether similar levels of concern are present in less prosperous parts of the world; and whether it is possible to translate individual concerns into collective political action. Here, the message is a lot more mixed. The furore over the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s private jets are a case in point. People don’t like being lectured to, particularly when those doing the lecturing fail to live by their own ethical code.

    Continue reading...

  • Some African nations at Cites conference argue sales would provide much-needed income

    An audacious attempt to allow a huge sale of stockpiled elephant ivory has been defeated at an international wildlife conference. The rancorous debate exposed deep divisions between African nations with opposing views on elephant conservation.

    About 50 elephants are still being poached every day to supply ivory traffickers and all countries agree the world’s largest land animal needs greater protection. But southern African nations, which have some of the largest elephant populations, want to allow more legal sales of ivory to fund conservation and community development. But 32 other African nations argue all trade in elephants must end, including the trophy hunting legal in some states.

    Continue reading...

  • Pilot scheme on Network Rail’s Wessex route could pave way for direct powering of trains

    The world’s first solar farm to power a railway line directly is due to plug into the track near Aldershot, paving the way for solar-powered trains.

    From Friday, about 100 solar panels at the trackside site will supply renewable electricity to power the signalling and lights on Network Rail’s Wessex route.

    Continue reading...

  • Three protesters found guilty despite intervention of shadow chancellor in their support

    Three Extinction Rebellion activists involved in protests in central London in April have been convicted of public order offences at a trial which heard a message of support for them from the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell.

    The men were among more than 1,000 people arrested during the environmental group’s demonstrations – which caused large-scale disruption in what organisers described as the biggest act of civil disobedience in recent British history – but are the first to have gone on trial with legal representation.

    Continue reading...

  • Conservationists hope release of six eaglets on Isle of Wight will mirror Scotland success

    White-tailed eagles are gracing the skies of southern Britain for the first time in 240 years after six eaglets were released on the Isle of Wight.

    The huge birds, which are fitted with satellite tags, are expected to disperse along the south coast of England in a scheme backed by the environment secretary, Theresa Villiers, who welcomed the return of the “majestic” species.

    Continue reading...

  • Restoration project uses seed-rich hay taken from roadside verges to regrow lost meadows

    There is something back to front about the idyllic scene on a meadow south of Norwich. Hay is normally gathered in, but this freshly cut, sweet-smelling grass is being carefully forked across a field.

    The hay, harvested from nearby roadside verges, is spread to scatter the seeds contained within it, part of an innovative scheme to restore natural flower-rich meadows and reverse losses. More than 97% of Britain’s wildflower meadows have vanished since the 1930s.

    Continue reading...

  • In an area facing particular threats from earthquakes and global heating, Portland has a duty to take care of its abundant water supply

    Continue reading...

  • There are tens of thousands of pythons in the Florida wild, attacking animals and damaging ecosystems – and the quest to stop them has become a collective crusade

    On a Thursday afternoon in St Petersburg, Florida, Beth Koehler crouches over a cairn terrier named Ginger, trimming intently as fur collects around her feet. On Koehler’s arm is a scratch – red, jagged and freshly acquired, though not in the way one might expect of a dog groomer.

    “There was no way I could pin the head,” Koehler says, referring to the snake that was partly responsible. She had grabbed hold however she could, which made it “pissed”: “It decided to coil up and just throw itself at me.” Startled, Koehler had fallen backwards, cutting herself on a vine – an injury far preferable to the bite of a Burmese python.

    Continue reading...

  • Cycad in Isle of Wight produces outdoor male and female cones for first time on record

    An exotic plant has produced male and female cones outdoors in Britain for what is believed to be the first time in 60m years. Botanists say the event is a sign of global heating.

    Two cycads (Cycas revoluta), a type of primitive tree that dominated the planet 280m years ago, have produced cones on the sheltered undercliffs of Ventnor Botanic Garden on the Isle of Wight.

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds