Christmas in Serbia

November 30th 2023 in Explore
Christmas in Serbia

Christmas in Serbia

Serbia has a rich cultural heritage associated with its Christmas traditions. The country's main church is the Orthodox Church, which still observes the old Julian Calendar. As a result, Christmas celebrations in Serbia take place on 7th January, one day after Christmas Eve, which is observed on 6th January. The Orthodox Church celebrates Advent for six weeks, starting on 28th November, during which some people fast and avoid food that comes from animals, such as meat, milk, and eggs.

Serbia and Montenegro share many Christmas traditions that are celebrated with great enthusiasm. Families come together on Christmas Eve, known as 'Badnji dan' during the day and 'Badnje veče' after sunset. It is the last day of the Christmas fast, and many people fast and avoid food that comes from animals. Christmas is a religious holiday, so most people attend Christmas Services to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Serbia has a rich history of traditions associated with the countryside, many of which have been passed down through generations. Traditionally, on the morning of Christmas Eve, the family's father would go to the forest to cut a young oak called the 'Badnjak', which was burnt like a Yule Log. Nowadays, people buy one, and sometimes, large bonfires outside churches where oak branches and Badnjak are burnt. The burning of the Badnjak symbolises the triumph of light over darkness and the hope for a prosperous new year.

On Christmas Day, the church bells ring at dawn, and some people fire guns into the air. The first person to enter a house on Christmas Day is called a položajnik, believed to bring good luck to the house and family. Girls traditionally collected 'strong water' early on Christmas morning to get to their families. People would drink some vital water and wash their faces before breakfast.

During Christmas, a special round-shaped bread called 'cesnica' is eaten, sometimes made using some of the 'strong water'. Each family member gets a piece, and the house does, too. There is a hidden coin in it, and whoever receives it will be exceptionally fortunate the following year. Other popular Christmas dishes include pecenica (roast pork), sarma (cabbage stuffed with rice and ground meat), and many cakes.

Under the dinner table, some straw is spread out to symbolise the stable or cave where Jesus was born. Some people make the noise of a chicken when spreading the straw, as clucking like a chicken symbolises that Jesus wanted people to follow him like one big family. Some people also lay a handful of walnuts on the straw.

In Serbian, Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Hristos se rodi' (Christ is born), and the reply is 'Vaistinu se rodi' (truly born). People in Serbia also celebrate St. Nicholas' Day on 19th December. During the communist regime, the government did not like St. Nicholas or Santa Claus, so they had their version called Grandfather Frost (Deda Mraz) or Christmas Brother (Božić Bata), who came on New Year's Eve. Traditional Serbian customs have also mixed with Western customs, such as having Christmas Trees decorated on New Year's Eve rather than at Christmas.