World Culture: Orthodox Christmas, Serbia

Serbia is a beautiful destination that never ceases to amaze its visitors. Christmas is one of his most wonderful (and often confusing to foreigners) customs. Orthodox Christmas, unlike the Western world version, is celebrated on the seventh of January every year.

But why don’t Serbs spend Christmas Eve while the rest of Christendom does? A member of today’s translations team shares some ideas! From the unique Christmas tree and Christmas dinner, here’s what you need to know about the Serbian Christmas season!

Although the Julian calendar celebrates Christmas on December 25, this 13-day date is out of sync with the commonly used Gregorian calendar that the Serbian Orthodox Church still uses. This also means that the Serbian New Year is celebrated on January 13, instead of the first!

Preparing for the Serbian Orthodox Christmas

In Serbia, the days leading up to Christmas Eve are very fun. Three weeks before Christmas Eve, every Sunday, family members take turns in a game of leash and ransom themselves.

Giving gifts on Christmas Eve is not a Serbian tradition, but this is where the three Sundays before Christmas come into play. These three holidays are called Detinjci, Materice and Oci. Children give gifts to their parents on Detinjci, married women give gifts to their children on Materice, and married men give gifts to their children on Oci.

Proper preparations begin on Christmas Eve, though, and it’s called Badnji Dan in Serbia. Today it is named after badnjak, an oak branch that is the local alternative to the Christmas tree. Badings are taken indoors and lit at dusk on Christmas Eve, but many families avoid indoor fire hazards and set fire to the tree outside instead.

The largest display can be found in the Temple of Saint Sava in Belgrade. Many families come here to celebrate in the Christmas spirit before heading to church for a midnight service. Those who choose not to attend the service can often be found enjoying some wine or rakija with friends.

Let the feast begin

The first person to visit a family home in Serbia is also known as the first appendix, or polaženik. This person has an important role in predicting the events of the New Year, so they must be carefully arranged. Many children assume this role in Serbian families.

January 7 marks the end of the 40-day Nativity Fast, during which Serbs abstain from dairy and meat. This means that an orthodox Christmas brunch is usually a lavish event!

Pigs have always been a big problem in Serbia. So it makes sense that the traditional centerpiece of the Christmas menu would be roast pork. Another traditional dish on Christmas Eve is Cesnia. Serbs bake this bread only during this time of the year. Although you’ll find it in different versions across the country, each different type of this bread shares a common trait. There is always a coin inside the loaf! And whoever finds it in their slice enjoys the coming year.

Serbia: the coolest place to celebrate Orthodox Christmas!

There is contagious energy in the air in Serbia between December 31 and January 14 every year. During this time, the rest of the world begins to forget what they had on Christmas Eve. However, Serbia comes alive with fireworks and endless festivities and celebrations! If you’re looking for a festive way to prolong the Christmas season, then Serbia might be the answer you’ve been looking for!

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