Serbian traditional Christmas celebration is a combination of many Christian symbols and engages a lot of customs and delicious food. Serbian Christmas Greetings are a significant part of such an interesting tradition.
In Serbia, the majority of people believe in the Orthodox religion. The Orthodox Church still uses the "Julijanski" (Julian) or "stari" (old) Calendar. So, it means that people celebrate Christmas Eve on 6th January and Christmas Day is on 7th January! The Orthodox Church also preached that people should fast from 28th November and in the next six weeks. During fasting, some people don't eat meat, milk, eggs, or any other food that comes from animals.
Instead of greeting each other with the usual “Dobar dan” or “Zdravo” (Hello), Serbs use the traditional greeting which is the most common way to say Happy/Merry Christmas: “Христос се роди” (Cyrillic Letters) / Hristos se rodi (Latin Alphabet), which is the pandan to the Christmas greetings in English. If you translate it literally, it would mean “the Christ is born.” And in case you want to reply to that greeting, you should just say “Ваистину се роди (Cyrillic Letters) / Vaistinu se rodi (Latin Alphabet). The translation for that phrase is “ (indeed, He is born).
People often say: “Srećan i Blagosloven Božić!! Neka vam nova godina donese puno sreće, mira i ljubavi!”
(Have a blessed and joyful Christmas! May the new year bring you a lot of happiness, peace and love!!)
'Badnji dan' (Christmas Day) and 'Badnje veče' (Christmas Eve) is the time when all is about the family. Also, it's the last day of the Božićni post (Christmas fast) or Veliki post (the great fast).
Christmas is a substantially religious holiday when most of the population in Serbia goes to church to attend the Christmas Services.
We can talk about old Serbian traditions for a very long time since there are a lot of them. Moreover, those Serbian traditions are mostly "respected" in the rural part of the country.
When the morning of Christmas Eve comes, glava porodice (the father of the family) goes into the forest before the Sun rises so he can cut granu mladog hrasat (a branch of young oak) called the 'Badnjak' or Christmas Eve tree in English. However, as I already said, people who live in towns and cities don't go by tradition and just go to pijaca (market) to buy Badnjak, which they will burn in the evening outside of the church.
It was an antigen tradition when people believed that by firing a rifle or later firecrackers, they drive away evil spirits and, in that way, "secure" a good year that has just begun. Today, some people still use firecrackers honoring tradition rather than believing in that kind of" securing" rich and noble years full of health in that way.
Položajnik is the first person to enter a house on Christmas Day. People believe položajnik will bring happiness and that year will be fertile and productive. However, that will happen
only if he entered the home first with his right leg.
Naturally, that person should be a person with many virtues and usually pre-arranged for that honorable role. So, if the family doesn't have a good year, they need to find another položajnik. The tradition says that, but I have never heard that someone changed their položajnik.
Položajnik has one more duty - to light up the rest of the badnjak so he can make sparks fly through the air. By tradition, the more sparks položajnik makes from the fire, the healthier, happier, and prosperous year for all family members.
As I already talked about what men should do by the Christian tradition, it is time to mention what is a role for the girls. On the morning of Christmas day, they should bring the water so the whole family can drink so-called 'strong water' from the well. Obviously, only girls from the countryside can do this task.
It's a well-known fact that Serbian food is fantastic. Serbian traditional Christmas dishes are even more delicious.
When we are talking about Christmas day in Serbia, people eat a special kind of bread. Serbians call it česnica, and it's usually made in a round shape. Some people still use some of the 'strong water' for making traditional Christmas bread. And here comes the most interesting part of the tradition: Every family member is getting a piece and needs to find a Christian coin in their very piece of česnica. The person who finds this unique coin will have a healthy, happy, and wealthy upcoming year.
Česnica is not the only food Serbians eat on the Christian. We have sarma, pečenica, and lots of cookies and other sweet stuff.
Again in rural places of the country, people bring some straw into the house and put it under the dinner table. This tradition symbolizes the stable where Jesus was born. Them family members should make the noise as if they are chicken! This represents Jesus's wish for humankind to follow him like one big family (like chickens are gathering). When we are talking about straws, many people spread walnuts and other stone fruit so kids can find them.
People in Serbia also celebrate St. Nicholas' Day on December 19th. There is an interesting story behind this saint. In the past, Serbia (as a part of Yugoslavia) was a communist country. So, from the end of World War II until about 20 years ago, the Serbian government didn't like St. Nicholas or Santa Claus. That is the reason why we got our own. So today, we have our own version Santa Claus - Дедa Мрaз / Deda Mraz (Grandfather Frost ) and Божић Бата / Božić Bata (Christmas Brother), who came on New Year's Eve and left presents for kids under Božićnu jelku (Christmas tree).
As you could see while reading this blog post, Serbian traditions have some unique and interesting stuff, but also some of them are similar to western customs. For example, as I mentioned, people in Serbia also have Christmas Trees, but we decorate them on New Year's Eve, not like in Western culture at Christmas!
It's always nice if you make an effort to learn something about the tradition and Christmas greetings in the native language of the person you love or respect as a friend. So, if you are planning to learn Serbian Christmas Greetings or other words and phrases, you can use Ling App and learn a new language in an interesting and fun way.