Semenj

A well-known song says that every place has its own feast day, but not many feasts go far back to the 16th century. One such feast is the Semenj of Cres. “Semenj” is the local dialect word for “sajam”, or “fair” in English. The first record of such an event can be traced back to a Decree of the Republic of Venice from 14 August, 1543. Back then, the Semenj lasted for a whole week and all the merchandise brought to be sold at Cres was freed of any taxes. Later on the Semenj was regulated in Emperor Franz Joseph’s Bull from 1828, and its annual tradition was uninterrupted until World War Two.

As customary in the Middle Ages, the timing of the Semenj was focused on the religious holiday of Saint Mary the Great or Our Lady of the Snows which is celebrated on 5 August each year. Therefore the authorities perceived it as a Church event, and it remained ignored and neglected. In the 1990s, the Semenj was revived and its centuries-old roots remembered, adding more and more repertory and slowly turning it into the main summer feast again. The Semenj brings people together, the locals and the diaspora. Numerous tourists who are here for the holidays gladly take part in the traditional local events.

The main feature of every fair, and the Semenj is no different, is the display and sale of various handcrafted merchandise, mainly intended for households. Stalls are installed along the streets and squares of Cres, as points of sale for local producers and for those from other parts of Croatia. Along with olive oil from Cres, visitors can also taste kulen, a spicy sausage from Slavonia, cheese from Krk, truffles from Istria, or purchase various handcrafted items made of wool, leather, or wood, creative jewelry and artwork.

For each of the three evenings of the Semenj the local Tourist Board puts together a rich program, which includes local klapa groups and renowned Croatian musicians. The last evening of the Semenj is reserved for a traditional tombola (a type of raffle) with valuable prizes, organized by the local Pensioners Association.

On the eve of the Semenj, local sports associations organize various sports competitions and the winners get their prizes and medals in a public ceremony just before the music events. Basketball, football, chess, bocce (a game similar to petanque), and briškola and trešeta (card games) tournaments are a great opportunity for the locals as well as for the guests to get together and have a good time.