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  • Writer's pictureIvana Lea Gasparac

CROATIAN HERITAGE AND TRADITIONS BEING PRESERVED IN CANADA FOR ALMOST HALF A CENTURY

The 46th Annual Western Canadian Croatian Folklore Festival


As a Canadian Croatian raised by Diaspora parents, I would like to put emphasis on what an honor it is for me to be part of the Canadian Croatian community and be able to attend this festival in particular. Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the @46th Annual Western Canadian Croatian Folklore Festival, hosted in Calgary, Alberta, by the @Croatian Heritage Society. This festival is regularly celebrated over the Canadian May long weekend (May 17–19). The folklore festival is dedicated to celebrating and preserving Croatian folklore through traditional songs, dances, and music, bringing together various Croatian folklore groups from across Western Canada. Watching third- and fourth-generation Croatians celebrate our Croatian heritage fulfills me and reminds me of what it means to be a Croatian.


This festival occurs each year in a different city in Western Canada; the same goes on in Eastern Canada. This year we were joined by groups from Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria, Winnipeg, and special guests from Chicago, Los Angeles, and Ontario. Similar events to this one occur throughout the year in the US and Australia.


The main focus of Croatian associations across the world is to keep these traditions alive through various events and initiatives so future generations will know about their national identity. The entire weekend serves as a natural networking platform; I found myself speaking to people from all over North America and the US, asking me about various elements of life in Croatia. It was the perfect opportunity to promote visiting, living, and investing in our beautiful country!


Let me break down the 3 day itinerary of the festival…

The festival begins with a more casual pub night on Friday, similar to a meet-and-greet, which is attended majorly by young adults and kids.

Saturday morning we watch folklore performances at a concert hall, which is attended by society members, Croatian ambassadors, local public figures and different broadcast networks. The folklore groups prepare their dances throughout the year with the guidance of choreographers and dance instructors coming from various parts of the world; performing a medley of song and dance from different regions of Croatia. The evening continues with a semi-formal banquet, attended by people of all ages, in which they usually have a local band performing. For me, watching the folklore performances and bands perform at the parties gives me goosebumps along with an overwhelming sense of pride!

Sunday mass is celebrated at the Croatian church with a beautiful sight of the performers once again wearing their traditional Croatian “nošnje”. Later that evening we make our way to the Sunday night formal gala, also attended by people of all ages. On this final night, awards are presented, scholarships are given, and the flag for the following festival is passed on to the next host representative. This year we were lucky enough to have 2 live bands perform on Sunday night.

Monday morning is hard because we all wake up with a bad case of the oh-so-famous post-festival blues, as we all say bye to our new or old long-distance friends and return to our homes. A larger than expected turnout attended the event this year, which was fantastic and made for an even more spectacular atmosphere!

 

My friends in Croatia often ask me about these events, in particular how is it possible for these traditions to be continued outside of Croatia for almost half a century. They are intrigued as to why I love visiting Canada so often and for such short periods (a weekend in this case), I simply tell them - it's SO worth it. Festival is like our homecoming… it has a unique way of awakening our national pride…


Not many people experience the sense of belonging, which is what is felt strongly within the Canadian Croatian community - it's like one big extended family.

Growing up in Croatia with parents who grew up in diaspora, I always felt torn between my two homes - confused about which one I belonged to more. Festivities like these remind me that you can be miles away from home but if you hold onto the values and traditions of your culture, your home will always be within your heart. And this is exactly what the Croatian diaspora community stands for and represents to me.

 

We are already looking forward to next year's festival which will be hosted by the @Hrvatski Vitezovi in Vancouver, British Columbia!




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Julie Blazevic
Julie Blazevic
01 jun

What a wonderful event celebrating and honouring our beautiful culture.

So beautifully written Ivana ❤️

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