The Feast of St Blaise falls on February 3, and is the most important event in the life of the City of Dubrovnik attracting numerous residents into the streets and exhibiting traditional folklore.
In 2009, the feast was included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity established by UNESCO which aims to protect important intangible cultural heritages worldwide and nurture the awareness of their significance.
The festivities begin on February 2, Candlemas, when the white doves are released in front of the Church of St Blaise by the Bishop of Dubrovnik. All the church bells in the city ring and the faithful wait for the ritual blessing of their throats. The next morning after the mass the procession flows through the streets of the Old Town attended by priests and residents coming from various parts of the county, many of them wearing traditional folklore costumes and waving parish banners. The crowds of spectators watch the procession and the devout touch the reliquaries storing the saint’s skull, part of his throat bone, his left and right arm covered in the finest work of goldsmiths from Dubrovnik, which have been gathered through centuries and kept in the Cathedral’s Treasury.
The macabre touches evoking Pre-Christian rituals but actually celebrating the saint and annihilating all that is pagan dissolve into a hearty and funny family outing when it is time for tombola – an open air version of bingo with the tradition of its own. In front of Sponza Palace, the caller sticks silly names to the numbers, for example, number 77 is best known under the name “ladies’ legs”, until the winner takes it all and the losers, if they lose their tempers as well, are allowed to throw oranges at the caller.