Wooden toys and licitars

Wooden toys are recognizable traditional products of Hrvatsko Zagorje with a long history, whose production started in the 19th century and lasts until the present day. Wooden toys´production centeres are the cities of Bistrički Laz, Stubički Laz, Gornja Stubica, Marija Bistrica, Tugonica and Turnišće. There are several types of toys, such as wooden flute – “žvegla”, “klepetaljke” – birds with wheels that clap wings when pushed on a stick, tamburitza, wooden animals, whistles, car models, trucks, trains, airplanes, children furniture for dolls and many other.

The production method was passed in certain families from generation to generation and kept alive until today. The production is specific because the toys are handcrafted by men and painted mostly by women. Each toy is handmade, and it is impossible to find identical toys.

The toys are made of willow, maple, beech and lime tree wood. The wood is cut, dried, timbered and formed by using the molds. The most common colors, traditional for wooden toys, are red, blue, white and yellow. The toys are sold during church festivals, fairs, at the markets, and mostly at Marian shrine of Marija Bistrica.

The art of making traditional wooden toys from the area of Hrvatsko Zagorje was included in the UNESCO´s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009 and in the List of Protected Intangible Heritage of the Register of Cultural Property of the Republic of Croatia.

Tradicionalne drvene igračke i licitari
Tradicionalne drvene igračke i licitari

Licitars (colorfully decorated biscuits made of sweet honey dough) are colorfully decorated cookies (gingerbreads) made of honey dough, whose history stretches as far back as the 13th century. They are traditionally of bright red color, and produced in various shapes and sizes like hearts, babies, birds, horseshoes, wreaths, horses, mushrooms, etc. They are also favorite ornaments for Christmas trees in Croatian homes, while the bigger ones serve as gifts for loved ones in special occasions.

Traditionally, the dough for licitar was pressed into handmade wooden molds, and today it is shaped in metal molds, then baked, and finally painted with different colors (red, yellow, green, white) and decorated with white sugar mixture, small mirrors, etc. The tradition of licitar production was included in the UNESCO´s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010 (as Gingerbread craft from Northern Croatia).

In Marija Bistrica you can visit the licitar craft ethno collection that will take you through the history of licitar production, introduce you to the tools that were used long time ago, licitar production vocabulary, old handcraft techniques and almost forgotten products. The production of licitar can also be learned through a brief presentation of licitar-master (Medičar), and in the workshop you can also try out your skills in making licitar like a true licitar-master.