People in Serbia celebrate Christmas on January 7th, and they do it in a manner that binds traditional Orthodox customs together with pagan traditions, followed by rich and delicious cuisine.
Serbian Way of Celebrating Christmas
Serbian Christmas celebration differs from Western Christmas celebration in most ways. The way Christmas is honored in America has more to do with how Serbs celebrate New Year’s Eve. Buying a Christmas tree, decorating your house, and preparing gifts for family and friends are not usual for Serbian Christmas traditions.
Getting the whole family together, preparing the most delicious traditional Serbian food, and practicing old Serbian Christmas customs are the main elements of Serbian Christmas. This holiday is celebrated for three days in a row, starting with Christmas Day, and to anyone who hasn’t experienced it, it is a true festive spectacle.
The Most Typical Serbian Christmas Food
The interesting thing about Serbian Christmas is that the day of celebration marks the end of 40 days long fast, in which you avoid all animal products. You can only imagine how luscious the prepared Serbian Christmas food is after the Nativity fast is over. Traditional Serbian food for Christmas includes:
- You’ve probably already seen the mentions of “sarma” on our blog. Sarma recipe is a part of every Serbian household, and although the combination of cabbage, rice, and ground meat may sound simple, the way sarma tastes is inexplicable. Sarma recipe vary from region to region, but the ingredients are always the same and the flavor exquisite.
- Pork roast is another traditional Serbian food, and the way the pork is prepared is also a part of Serbian Christmas traditions. The pig should be slaughtered on the morning of Christmas Eve and roasted over an open fire throughout the whole day.
- “Cesnica” is a type of bread made only for the Christmas holidays. There are different variations of the cesnica recipe, and the ingredients depend on the part of Serbia where they make it. One common thing for the whole country is that the lucky coin is always hidden inside the bread.
The Most Common Serbian Christmas Traditions
Besides Serbian Christmas food, there are a couple of Serbian Christmas traditions worth mentioning since they show dedication and respect people from Serbia have towards celebrating the Christmas holiday.
- On Christmas Eve, people place oak tree branches into the fire. The Serbian term for the oak branch is “badnjak,” and the ritual of putting the “badnjak” in fire resembles the Yule log custom. This ritual is related to family and is performed in houses, mainly in the countryside. Since people in cities can’t perform this practice at home, they commonly choose a spot somewhere in their neighborhood where the local community gets together and makes a big fire that symbolizes the fire three shepherds brought to the stable where Jesus was born to warm it up.
- We have already mentioned the lucky coin hidden in “cesnica.” During the Christmas lunch or dinner, everyone in the family receives a part of this bread. The one who finds the coin has good fortune throughout the year.
- The first person who enters the house in the morning on Christmas Day is called “polozajnik,” and he symbolizes the three wise men who came to visit Jesus when he was born. The “polozajnik” enters the house with his right leg to bring good luck to the household. When leaving, he receives many gifts as a token of gratitude, so today, in most cases, families arrange that children play this role.
These are just some of the usual food and customs practiced in celebrating Christmas in Serbia. Feel welcome to come to Rakija Lounge and experience the holiday vibes with us by trying out the most delicious traditional food and enjoying the warm and cheery atmosphere.