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Aug. 15 | The fifteenth of August is one of the holiest days of the year in Croatia. It’s the day when Catholics everywhere celebrate the assumption of the Virgin Mary’s body into heaven. Across the country, Masses are held, people venture far and wide to pray at chapels dedicated to the mother of Jesus, and communal processions are held in solemn silence.
Here on Brač Assumption Day — or Velika Gospa as it’s locally known — holds extra significance because, in addition to being a deeply religious observance, it’s also considered to be the last day of summer. Of course, it’s not the actual last day — there will still be plenty of hot afternoons, warm evenings, and cold swims in the weeks ahead — but starting tomorrow, the island will begin to return to its usual slumbering state as all the visiting locals head back to their homes in Split or Zagreb, family vacations wrap up for the year, and foreigners return to whatever countries they came from. The tidal wave of tourism that washes over the island every July and August will now start to withdraw. Soon restaurants will close down for the season, souvenir stands will shutter, and flip-flops and bathing suits will go back on their shelves.
But not yet.
For those of us still living here, it makes for a difficult transition. So much happens throughout the summer, and you get used to having so many people around, and then like that, it’s over. Everyone heads home.
It’s fitting, therefore, that the summer ends with a procession since that’s how it also begins. On the Good Friday of every Easter we walk, excited by the prospect of warm days ahead. And now that it’s Velika Gospa we walk again. Only now there’s no summer to look forward to.
But it’s not all sad. Soon the nights will be cool enough for sleeping without fans or air conditioning whirring in the background, and in two months the olive picking will begin. Then there will be wine crushes and afternoon marendas and beyond that, bakalar and Christmas markets and trips to Zagreb. So while on the one hand I’m sad that summer is ending, on the other hand I know that one of the best times of year is about to begin. at Pucisca