The evening before the festivity of Saint Blaise in Dubrovnik, Croatia, as all the church bells in the city ring and white doves are released as symbols of peace, worshippers gather for a ritual healing of the throat to preserve them against illness. On the third of February, the official day of both saint and city, parish banner bearers flow into the city in folk costume for the centrepiece of the festival, a procession attended by bishops, ambassadors, civic leaders, visiting notables and the people of Dubrovnik. The festivity embodies many aspects of human creativity, from rituals to folk songs, from performance to traditional crafts (including the making of the historical weapons fired in celebration). The ritual dates back in some form to at least 1190 and has reinforced a close identification of Dubrovnik’s residents with the city’s patron, Saint Blaise. Over time, the festivity has evolved as Dubrovnik and the world have changed. Each generation adapts it slightly, inspired by its own ideas and needs to make the ritual its own. On Saint Blaise’s day, Dubrovnik gathers not only its residents, but all those who pay respect to tradition and the right to one’s freedom and peace.
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