- Last Updated on Monday, 07 January 2013 08:22
Christmas is a three-day holiday primarily focusing on the home and family and this orthodox holiday is filled with the most beautiful religious customs and rituals.
The people are cheerful and happy, spending time in their homes and with the loved ones and during the Christmas people reconcile, forgive each other and not fight. There is a difference in celebrating Christmas between Orthodox Serbs, Russians, Greeks, and Bulgarians, while the liturgical and prayer part of the celebration is the same. Although Greeks are Orthodox nation, they celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December like Christians do.
For the believers, the preparations for Christmas begin 40 days before January 7, when the Nativity Fast begins. Many people identify the Nativity Fast as the period of preparing to celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth. It is believed that fasting helps people shift their focus from themselves to others, spending less time worrying about food and using more time in increased prayer and caring for the poor. The main idea of the fast is purification of the mind and body. The first day of Christmas is a day of both solemn ritual and joyous celebration while the second day is spend in the quiet domestic mood while churches serve a special Liturgy. The Christmas is celebrated today as the most important holiday in Serbia and has not changed a lot for centuries and it represent in the best way the old religion of the Serbian people.
Christmas week is the week before Christmas and therefore the Christmas Eve is the last day before Christmas. According to some interpretations, the name comes from the Slavic meaning awake. Christmas celebration begins with the Christmas Eve referring to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day on 6th of January. During sixth day of the year, the man of the house buys or cuts badnjak. Badnjak is the name for a log similar to a Yule log in other European traditions and it’s usual an oak. The ritual of its bringing into the house marks the beginning of the Christmas holidays while an important element of Christmas Eve is the burning of the Badnjak when the night falls.
Christmas Eve dinner is meatless but festive where people mainly eat fish, beans, baked beans, dried fruits and etc. The most important ingredient is a special Christmas bread-cesnica. The preparation of this bread is accompanied by various rules and rituals. A coin and small objects are often put into the dough. At the beginning of Christmas dinner, the cesnica is rotated three times counterclockwise, before being broken among the family members. The person who finds the coin in his piece of the bread will supposedly be exceptionally lucky in the coming year. This day is full with various customs and actually present in the most colorful way Serbian national folklore.
Christmas is along Easter, one of the two biggest Christian holidays. Christmas is a day that celebrates the birth of Christ. Christmas, 7th of January, remains the first family household holiday.
In Serbia, people are welcome with the words: "Christ is born!" (Hristos se rodi) and the response is, "Indeed he is born” (Vaistinu se rodi). If you are unable to personally congratulate the holiday, it is custom to send a Christmas card a few days before Christmas. The purchased greeting cards should have written " Mir Božji - Hristos se rodi” or something similar. Also it’s common to congratulate Christmas by phone, email or SMS, but only on Christmas day with the obligatory „Hristos se rodi" (Christ is born).
The new era and urban life changed the Christmas traditions and customs but this day is still full with various customs and actually present in the most colorful way Serbian national folklore.
Image credit: Kurir