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Slobodna Dalmacija keeps celebration of patron saint alive with virtual event

By Vlado Ozretić

Slobodna Dalmacija/Hanza Media

Split, Croatia

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The COVID-19 pandemic clearly showed us not only the importance of digital ecosystems but their strength as well. Whether it is connecting people, educating them, or simply making our lives easier, digitalisation is everywhere.

Our beliefs, values, and traditions are a big part of who we are. And while our beliefs and values today are being challenged by one of the most difficult times for humanity in general, our traditions, especially those related to socialisation, are also being tested. Many of them, because of the pandemic, are starting to fade away.

At Slobodna Dalmacija, we wondered: If humans can digitally evolve, can the traditions we harbour evolve as well?

Traditionally, the annual Saint Dominus celebration brought the entire city of Split, Croatia, together.
Traditionally, the annual Saint Dominus celebration brought the entire city of Split, Croatia, together.

Bringing Split together

There is an old Latin proverb that says “nomen est omen.” It translates roughly as “the name speaks for itself.” And Split, a beautiful town situated on the Adriatic coast, for sure boasts that.

The etymology of the name “Split” is less important in the Croatian language, but we all know what “split” means in English. And people in Split are, as such, a particular demographic group. In a city of extremes, there is no middle.

That being said, Split townsfolk, among other things, absolutely adore one thing: tradition. Whether it is the unconditional love for the football club Hajduk, the irrational love for the “joie de vivre,” to the need for love that comes from being with one another, those things represent the love that evolved into a tradition that eventually incorporated itself into the very ethos of Split townsfolk.

Simply put, we in Split love our traditions, and we love to socialise. The pandemic hit us hard. There was a big lockdown. So, no socialisation, at least not the physical one that we got so used to. And, not only that, the celebration of our town’s patron, Saint Dominus, was coming soon. On May 7, there isn’t a person in Split who does not come outside to socialise. 

Since that was all that was taken away from us, our mission at Slobodna Dalmacija was to give back a sense of normality and hope to the people.

In our minds, there was no chance that the celebration of Saint Domnius wouldn’t occur. It has been held for centuries! So, we decided to provide one in the safest possible form: a digital one.

Together but apart

We wanted to promote responsible behaviour during a pandemic and using virtual celebration to evoke positive emotions and boost morale while providing a sense of safety and alleviating the feeling of isolation caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

It was simply a message, more important than ever before, that Saint Domnius is with them — all while promoting the importance of unity by offering varied content about Saint Domnius, reminding citizens that the city’s most important holiday actually lives in our hearts, and that the hustle and bustle of the celebration will return once again.

There was also an added value to the campaign: We could use modern technologies to educate younger generations about their city’s customs, traditions, and history. That enabled us direct contact with readers, fostering a friendly atmosphere and trust.

The project took place May 1 through May 10, 2020. To add as much content as possible, we connected with the oldest and most important institutions in the city, art associations, the city department of education and sports, schools, and kindergartens, all of which gladly accepted our invitation to participate.

We achieved extremely high reader feedback. Numerous calls and positive feedback served as validation of project objectives. Readers, viewers, parents, grandparents, children, and school institutions loved the fact that children were invited to participate in the project creatively.

The celebration was a hit, reaching readers both online and with a special print edition.
The celebration was a hit, reaching readers both online and with a special print edition.

Judging by our reader’s comments, the most popular feature was the beautiful cover page. Readers asked for videos for their private archives, and colleagues on other portals asked for permission to share content. The project received acknowledgment through confirmation from our partners and the involved city institutions and associations that they would like to keep the digital form of the project in the future, regardless of the pandemic.  

In the end, we are just happy and proud to be allowed to keep an essential tradition of Split alive.

About Vlado Ozretić

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