Double New Year
If you have ever dreamed of celebrating Christmas and New Year twice, Serbia is the perfect place. Did you know that we have two sets of holidays in Serbia? That's right, Serbians celebrate two Christmases and two New Years!
The two calendars
Serbia uses two calendars: the Gregorian calendar, the new calendar, and the old calendar, which our church uses. We refer to the old calendar as “pravoslavni” (orthodox), while we use “katolički” (catholic) to refer to the new calendar. It all begins with calendars!
Religion in Serbia
Serbia is a country with a predominantly Orthodox Christian population. According to a few research studies, 85% of the population practices Orthodox Christianity, while 5% are Catholic. It should be noted that the Catholic population is concentrated in the northern region of Serbia, specifically in Vojvodina. It is common in various cities in Vojvodina to celebrate Catholic and Orthodox Christmas.
The dates of the Christmas and New Year holidays in Serbia
There is a 13-day difference between the two calendars we currently use. The Catholic Christmas, known as ‘katolički Božić’, is celebrated on December 25th or ‘dvadeset petog decembra’. On the other hand, the Orthodox Christmas, also called ‘pravoslavni Božić’, is celebrated 13 days later, on January 7th or ‘sedmog januara’. New Year’s Eve is celebrated on December 31st or ‘trideset prvog decembra’. Orthodox or Serbian New Year or ‘Pravoslavna ili Srpska nova godina’ is also celebrated on January 13th or ‘trinaestog januara’.
Catholic New Year and Orthodox Christmas
Most citizens in Serbia follow the Orthodox religion, so the biggest and most celebrated holiday is Orthodox Christmas on January 7th. However, the entire country celebrates December 31st as New Year. This is because Christmas (Božić) is a traditional and religious holiday, while the New Year’s Eve celebration on December 31st started after World War 2 with communism and is not religious. It is a party that people celebrate with their friends. On the other hand, Christmas is all about family and tradition.
Christmas and New Year traditions in Serbia
In Serbia, we celebrate Christmas Eve, Badnje veče, and Christmas, called Božić. On this occasion, Božić Bata, also known as Christmas Guy, brings presents to children. Božić is an orthodox and religious tradition, and it is celebrated traditionally.
On the other hand, for New Year's Eve, we have doček Nove godine, which means 'waiting for the new year,' as we eagerly await the new year's arrival. We also celebrate New Year's Day with novogodišnja jelka, a New Year's tree, usually an oak tree branch. Deda Mraz, also known as Santa Claus or Grandpa Frost, brings presents to children on New Year's Eve.
Although Christmas and New Year's celebrations involve the same practices, they have different traditions. New Year's is all about partying and friends, while Christmas is traditional and religious.
In Serbia, December 31st marks the end of the old year, and January 1st marks the beginning of a new year, following the Western World's calendar. We celebrate Serbian or Orthodox New Year on January 13th, which is less celebrated, although the celebrations are the same. You party with friends and have a New Year's tree, but fewer people celebrate on this date.