Just like in Ethiopia, Serbia’s main church is the Orthodox. They celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January as well.
The Serbians do follow a unique calendar known as, ‘Julian.’ This calendar is what brings in the variation of days; including the Christmas date.
The Advent celebrations go on for six weeks beginning on the 28th of November. During this time, most of the adults fast and stay away from any protein food.
The Extraordinary Christmas Eve
On the Eve, the Serbians usually prepare thoroughly. The day also marks the last date of fasting.
Interestingly, the people of Serbia refer to the morning and evening of Christmas Eve differently. They term the sunrise of Christmas Eve as, ‘Badnji dan,’ while they refer to its sunrise as, ‘Badnje vece.’
Sometime back, the people associated Christmas to the villages. On Christmas Eve, the man in the family would go to the woodlands.
He then cuts off a newly-matured oak tree which they call, ‘Badnjak.’
The oak is what families will decorate and use as a Christmas tree. Outside the churches, they would burn the ‘Badnjak’ and set large bonfires.
Some Serbians still do that to-date. Further, most of the people nowadays buy artificial Christmas trees.
The Serbians celebrate St. Nicholas Day on the 19th of December. Initially, the communist government that took control of Serbia could not accept either St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus.
They had their edition of a Christmas brother or Grandfather Frost, who would come in on Christmas Eve.
Festivities of Christmas Day
Christmas day in Serbia contains a lot of unique events. However, most of them continue to detach from the old Christmas traditions.
The majority live in town and associate with the latest happenings of the present society.
They consider Christmas to be very religious. The people will always attend the Christmas day church services to commemorate the birth of Jesus.
The most expressed statements during this time include; ‘Vaistinu se rodi,’ meaning ‘Christ is born,’ and ‘Hristos se rodi’ for Merry Christmas. It is interesting to know how people wish Happy or Merry Christmas in other languages.
Christmas day is very exceptional to the Serbians. They refer to the first person who goes into the house as, ‘polaznik.’
They deem this individual as extraordinary for the particular season since they will bring luck to the home.
Usually, there are prior arrangements made regarding the ‘polaznik.’ A family will mostly select an individual that brought them luck before.
Contrary, they avoid one who previously entered their home first but brought in bad luck.
Habitually, as Christmas day dawns, you will hear bells ringing all over to wake the people up and remind them how special the day is. You will also listen to the sounds of fire gun shootings on air.
Girls will then rush to collect the early morning water from the river. They believed that the freshwater contained some unusual powers.
The people would drink the water and then wash their faces before taking any other meal.
The Christmas Meal Tradition
Women often use the same ‘powerful water’ to prepare some round-shaped special kind of bread. They routinely place a coin in the middle of the dough.
After a perfect preparation, every family member will eat the bread. The Serbians believe that whoever gets the coin will be lucky in the coming New Year.
Besides, some typical Christmas meals in Serbia include:
- Sarma (Cabbage filled with ground meat and rice)
- Pecenica (roast pork)
- Plenty of cakes
A straw placed under the dinner table symbolizes the cave that Mary birthed Jesus. While a family ceremoniously opens the straw; some people make chicken-like noises.
The noise depicts the initial call by Jesus, for people to accompany him, just like one large family. The straw sign is very significant as it symbolizes the discipleship of Jesus.
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Main Points About Christmas in Serbia
- Christmas in Serbia is celebrated on the 7th of January.
- Christmas Preparations begin on the 28th of November with a fast. The fast which ends on Christmas eve (Badnij Dan), the 6th of January.
- The last day of the fast is very religious; many families go to church services. A traditional oak yule log (Badnjak) is brought in, put in the fireplace and burnt.
- Similarly, outside churches, big bonfires are held and traditional oak yule logs burnt.
- Early on Christmas morning, young girls are sent to fetch ‘strong water’ for the family. The water is believed to have healing powers. Some people will drink or wash their faces with the water before the preparation of meals begin.
Serbia has a lot of Christmas traditions in common with Montenegro.
Being an Orthodox country they celebrate on January 6th and fast during Advent and they have their own version of Yule Log, Badnjak.
Christmas Day is welcomed by church bells and even guns sometimes.
There’s straw under the table cloth at dinner to symbolize where Jesus lay. Roast pork is common as well as a special kind of round bread made for Christmas, ”cesnica”.
Word Cloud for Christmas in Serbia
The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on Christmas in Serbia. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.
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Chara Yadav holds MBA in Finance. Her goal is to simplify finance-related topics. She has worked in finance for about 25 years. She has held multiple finance and banking classes for business schools and communities. Read more at her bio page.