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

  • Illegal businesses form an interlocking web in the Brazilian remote region where Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira were killed, threatening Indigenous communities and local ecology

    Near a sharp bend on the Itaquaí River, perched on a steep muddy bank, a lone wooden structure marks the last outpost of a fragile resistance.

    This is the informal checkpoint used by the Indigenous rights advocate Bruno Pereira, an isolated stilted shack he hoped could help curb the rampant organised crime which threatens the pristine rainforest of the remote Javari Valley, the ecosystems within it and the Indigenous communities who call it home.

    Continue reading...

  • Developing countries’ delegates at UN conference seek recognition of small fisheries’ role in protecting oceans and fighting hunger

    Small-scale fishermen and women from coastal nations in the frontline of the “ocean emergency” have accused world leaders and other decision-makers at the UN oceans conference of ignoring their voices in favour of corporate interests.

    More than half of the world’s fish caught for human consumption comes from small-scale fishing communities, yet their contribution to food security and ocean protection is not being sufficiently recognised, they say.

    Continue reading...

  • Tebay, Cumbria: Getting the grass cut, baled and stored in the barn is one of the biggest and most important jobs of the year

    At least three days of hot, sunny weather are needed to make hay, and good weather is often in short supply in Cumbria. We had been watching our weather apps avidly, and a window appeared. The grass had grown long enough to make hay, the seed had set and there were no nesting birds in the fields, so it was all systems go.

    My son had mown the grass and “scaled it out” each day. As the grass is turned and tedded, the seeds can return to the meadow. The sheep’s hooves will trample in the seed and help it germinate to revive the meadow. Unfortunately, the starter motor had gone on the tractor – all our equipment is secondhand, and most of it very old – and I was queueing at the engineer’s parts counter when my son phoned to say that it was raining on the side of Blencathra where he was shepherding, and he was going to race home to get the hay in.

    Continue reading...

  • An Italian town has banned the practice during a heatwave, but if done right it benefits hair and scalp

    Global consumption of water is growing twice as fast as the world’s population and droughts are affecting swathes of the planet. So it was no surprise that this week the mayor of an Italian town in Emilia-Romagna, which is experiencing a severe heatwave, banned hairdressers from shampooing their customers’ hair twice, saying it would save thousands of litres of water a day.

    As we all attempt to reduce waste, that additional shampoo at home or in the salon can seem like overkill. So is what is known in the trade as “double cleansing” really necessary? No, but every hairdresser and trichologist is seemingly in agreement that the second shampoo has distinct benefits to scalp and hair, regardless of skin and hair type.

    Continue reading...

  • Focus of information places health responsibility on those who bear consequences of breathing poor air

    Summer is here and so is the risk of summertime smog.

    To help, Leeds city council has launched an email service to warn people when air pollution deteriorates. This joins long-established air pollution information systems that include the UK government’s webpages.

    Continue reading...

  • The best of this week’s wildlife pictures, including a stonefish, a mountain jerboa and a bevy of otters

    Continue reading...

  • Environment secretary George Eustice wants to amend Habitats Directive, which protects Natura 2000 sites

    Environment secretary George Eustice wants to tear up a key piece of European law that environmentalists say protects cherished habitats in the UK.

    Eustice told MPs the Habitats Directive was in a list of laws he wanted to amend in the forthcoming Brexit freedoms bill designed to cut red tape, saying it was bureaucratic and fundamentally flawed on multiple levels.

    Continue reading...

  • Ministers urged to toughen law to help restore carbon sinks, as figures point to illegal burning

    The government is failing to protect peatlands in England, conservation groups have warned, with the country at risk of losing more of its most efficient carbon sinks.

    Figures obtained by Wildlife and Countryside Link suggest illegal burns of the areas, which are important for biodiversity and carbon sequestration, are likely to have taken place.

    Continue reading...

  • Researchers find there could be many more ancient trees than previously recorded, amid calls for better protections

    There could be more than 2m ancient and veteran trees in England, many times more than previously recorded, researchers have found.

    Campaigners are calling on the government to give ancient trees the sameprotections as wildlife and old buildings.

    Continue reading...

  • Research ‘exposes litany of misleading claims’ by household names, including Coca-Cola and Unilever

    Claims about plastic packaging being eco-friendly made by big brands, including Coca-Cola and Unilever, are misleading greenwashing, according to a report.

    The Changing Markets Foundation says claims that companies are intercepting and using “ocean-bound” or “recyclable” plastic to tackle the plastic pollution crisis are some of the most common examples of greenwashing.

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds

  • Here are some announcements you may have missed from the 2022 UN Ocean Conference.

  • Protecting nature starts with science. Here’s a roundup of recent research published by Conservation International experts.

  • In case you missed it: A giant stingray hooked (and released) by a fisherman in Cambodia’s Mekong River earlier this month has taken the title of world’s largest freshwater fish.

  • In case you missed it: The unprecedented floods that ripped through Yellowstone National Park in the United States could be a warning of climate impacts to come.

  • The sunny days of summer are quickly approaching — and Conservation International staff are spending some free time with their favorite books. Here’s what they’re saying about the books they can’t put down.

  • Editor's note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Conservation News shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

    1. The world’s largest plant is a self-cloning sea grass in Australia

    Scientists have discovered a new contender for the largest living organism.

    The story: Last week, we brought you a story about the world’s oldest living things. This week, it’s the largest.

    A new study has revealed that a massive meadow of sea grass off the coast of Australia is one giant, self-cloning organism, reports Kate Golembiewski for the New York Times. The species, called Poseidon’s ribbon weed, or Posidonia australis, has been expanding over an area the size of Cincinnati for more than 4,500 years.

    Golembiewski writes that Posidonia is able to clone itself by creating new shoots that branch off from its root system. But it gets even stranger: Posidonia isn’t just a clone. Researchers believe it may also be a polyploidy — a hybrid from two distinct species, possessing two complete sets of chromosomes. Polyploidy occurs in many different species, but often produces individuals that can't reproduce. In the case of Posidonia, cloning itself is the only way to stay alive.

    The big picture: Posidonia isn’t the only clonal plant colony in the world. One of the most famous and largest is a quaking aspen colony in Utah known as “Pando,” which originated from a single seed sometime near the end of the last ice age. The colony now makes up 40,000 aspen trees that are connected by a continuous root system.

    Scientists fear climate change and other sustained environmental degradation could spell the end of Pando, which has been shrinking in size in recent years. Posidonia, which is old enough to have survived the last ice age, may fare better in the face of rapidly shifting temperatures. In fact, Elizabeth Sinclair, one of the study’s authors, said the plant’s extra genes could give it “the ability to cope with a broad range of conditions, which is a great thing in climate change.”

    Read more here.

    2. Crackling or desolate?: AI trained to hear coral's sounds of life

    Scientists can now listen for healthy coral.

    The story: The world’s coral reefs are struggling to survive. Climate-driven marine heatwaves have caused mass bleaching and die-offs, with 14 percent of the world's coral reefs destroyed between 2009 and 2018. Now, a group of scientists has developed a novel approach for detecting the damage: Using hundreds of reef recordings, they’ve trained a computer to track the health of coral reefs by listening to them, reports Angie Teo for Reuters.

    Thriving reefs sound a bit like a campfire, crackling with the cacophony of underwater life. In contrast, degraded reefs are far more silent. New research has shown that artificial intelligence can pick up on audio patterns that are not detectable to humans — providing fast, accurate data.

    “Sound recorders and AI could be used around the world to monitor the health of reefs, and discover whether attempts to protect and restore them are working,” the study’s co-author Tim Lamont told Cosmos. “In many cases it’s easier and cheaper to deploy an underwater hydrophone on a reef and leave it there than to have expert divers visiting the reef repeatedly to survey it, especially in remote locations.”

    The big picture: From motion-detector cameras that provide a real-world view of vulnerable species’ habitats, to tracking devices for monitoring wildlife migrations — technology is helping conservationists find solutions for critical environmental challenges.

    For example, Wildlife Insights, a cloud-based platform developed by Conservation International, Google and other partners, uses algorithms to identify camera trap images far faster than any researcher can. The data is critical to crafting smart policies for wildlife conservation.

    This month, Conservation International and partners launched a new app called “Fin Finder,” which enables customs inspectors to take a photo of a shark or manta ray fin and identify it within seconds. Powered by artificial intelligence, the app can help governments confiscate fins that are illegal to trade.

    Read more here.


    FURTHER READING:


    3. How this golden-eyed feline became the biggest comeback in cat conservation

    This cat is the star of a success story.

    The story: The Iberian lynx is the most endangered feline species in the world. The elusive cat, known for its distinctive amber eyes and bushy beard, was pushed to the brink by hunting, habitat loss and a virus that killed its main source of prey — the European rabbit. At its lowest point, less than 100 existed in the wild.

    But now, after 20 years of dedicated conservation efforts and a successful captive-breeding program, the lynx has made a triumphant return throughout its native habitat in Spain and Portugal, reports Christine Dell’amore for National Geographic. Slowly but surely, the population has inched upward and now there are around 400 individuals roaming the scrublands of Southern Europe.

    The big picture: The comeback cat still has a long road to recovery. Like many other large predators, the Iberian lynx needs a large, uninterrupted habitat with plenty of room to roam. But right now, its thousand-square-mile territory is fragmented and honeycombed by busy highways and other infrastructure. For Iberian lynx to truly bounce back, the isolated populations need to be able to reach one another and breed.

    The solution is to build wildlife corridors — essential passageways that allow animals to move from one safe location to another. It’s an approach that has worked for many other highly mobile species, including chimpanzees. Right now, efforts are underway to reconnect the fragmented habitat and help these felines find one another once again.

    Read more here.


    FURTHER READING:


    Will McCarry is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

    Cover image: A large seagrass bed in Honduras (© Joanne-Weston)

  • New technology will help inspectors tackle the illegal wildlife trade using a tool most already have in their pockets: their cell phones.

  • In case you missed it: Two ancient trees bring attention to the threat of global warming, hybridization could help some animals adapt to rising temperatures and companies must decrease deforestation to prevent climate-related losses.

  • In case you missed it: Rising temperatures are disrupting peoples’ slumber, carbon offsets are helping the Indigenous Hadza people protect the forests they depend on and elephants are consuming massive amounts of plastic from dumpsters in India.

  • In case you missed it: A tick that causes a meat allergy is shifting its range in response to global warming, climate change is taking a huge toll on India and species are disappearing before humans even know they exist.