And the warmth of your festive welcome in the Balkans cannot be cooled by anything as small as a World Cup semi-final… it’s a Christmas cracker in Croatia.
It’s just that this time because the football extravaganza is being held in December it’s Christmas trees.
And that they are having to wrap up warm when they take to the streets to celebrate another victory like the one they savoured against Brazil in the quarter-finals.
Today, of course, it’s another South American behemoth.
But this remarkable country of only four and a half million proud souls is used to fighting above their weight.
And they may also have a secret ingredient which can explain the question that is often asked… how do thy do it?
And that is the Man upstairs, and a woman too, his mother.
At least that’s what I was told by the Franciscans preaching in the Marian hub of Medjugorge.
And OK it’s really Bosnia & Herzegovina but try telling that to the good folk of that town.
Where the only thing that vies for attention on the stalls and the shops are Croatian flags, chequered football tops and pictures of the sainted Luka Modric.
And where the bartender at the Irish Centre in the town gets his music deck out.
And plays Dynamo Zagreb songs and their games on the big screen.
Z is tops
Zagreb is, of course, the country’s capital and by dint where the biggest markets are with a bunch of awards behind it.
Its Christmas market opened on 26 November and will run until 7 January 2023.
Look out for the creative shop-window displays, shimmering lights and decorations adorning the cobbled streets of the upper town.
Sample the roast chestnuts, sarma (sour cabbage rolls filled with minced meat), paprenjaci (peppery gingerbread cookies) and vanilla half-moons.
And watch out for the paper that they shoot from the Gric Cannon every day at noon.
Venture to the coast between now and January 8 and you’ll find Opatija which has been hailed as ‘the most beautiful advent by the sea’.
And which has the added attraction of an ice rink by the sea.
Juraj Šporer Art Pavilion is its centrepiece, with kiosks offering festive specialities, divine desserts and mulled wine.
While we’re advised that the charming fishing village of Volosko has the catch of the day.
Pearl of the Adriatic
Way before Game of Thrones brought a new audience.
Its own winter festival until January 6 covers an array of locations including the iconic Stardun in the old town with festive concerts.
The festivities of the old town are set against a backdrop of thousands of glittering lights.
For even more sparkle and merriment…
Head to the colourful Winter in Lapad Bay, which comes complete with ice-rink.
While Šibenik will get you connected with the New Year with the Stereo MCs on the main New Year’s stage in the square in front of the Cathedral of St. Jakov.
Where you can also enjoy Ireland’s finest, music icon Róisín Murphy.
The celebration starts at noon in the legendary park with the performance of the Šibenik Bagatin band.
And in the evening a program on two stages awaits visitors.
It’s all a Christmas cracker in Croatia..
And thanks to our friends from Croatia for the Sretan Božić.