The best way to experience the "real Croatia" is to witness a religious holiday and Palm Sunday is one of the most beautiful of Croatia's Catholic observances. It begins a week of celebrations culminating in Easter.
Celebrated with particular fervour in Dalmatia, the Palm Sunday ritual should begin with the gathering of palm branches but there are few palm trees on the Adriatic coast! Different localities found their own solutions. In Split, people used to gather around the one palm tree in town to strip its branches. On Brac Island, the authorities arranged to import palms from Vis Island where they are abundant.
Nowadays, olive or rosemary branches are considered an acceptable substitute. The branches are festooned with ribbons and flowers and woven into wreaths or crosses. In some places wreaths are the fashion and others have settled upon crosses. Whatever the form, the arrangement involves some artistry and is now usually professionally done. People buy them on the way to church.
Called poma, these little bouquets are then carried to church to be blessed. After the blessing, the poma are hung around the house as protection against bad luck and evil spirits.