Christmas is the happiest family holiday in our country. We celebrate it on 7th January, since we are Orthodox Christians and we follow Julian calendar. The day before Christmas has two names, depending on which part of the day you mean- „Badnji dan“ is during the day and „Badnje veče“ is in the evening. In England people call it Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve is the last day of lent. From 28th November till 6th January, a lot of Serbians fast, which means that they do not eat food which comes from animals. No meat, cheese, eggs, butter, milk…Most Serbians eat beans or fish. The most popular fish are trouts, carp and hake. Some rich families prefer salmon. As a dessert we eat apple pie, pumpkin pie, nuts and dried fruit.
On Christmas Eve the father of the family cuts the branch of the oak tree, or buy it in front of the church. It is called „Badnjak“ or Christmas Eve tree. Christmas tree is burnt at midnight. There is a ceremony of it in church. The more fire sparkles the more money the family will have, according to the tradition. The host of the house usually throws some straw, corns, nuts and coins all over the room and under the table. Some people and children make the noise of chicken (piu, pi, piu, pi). It is advisable to stay indoors on Christmas Eve.
The next day, early in the morning the housewife makes special Christmas bread called „česnica“. It is round and made without yeast. It is a custom to put a coin, some nuts, beans, corns and a part of oak tree in it. Each family member takes a piece of it. Coins mean wealth, beans and corn mean that there will be enough food in the house during that year. Nuts mean rich spread, oak tree means health and prosperity in the house. The first person to enter the house is called „položajnik“. He is supposed to bring good luck to the family and the house.
It is recommended to start doing a lot of important and interesting things on that day. If you study, you will study well during the year, if you clean your house, it will be tidy all year round.
Lunch is very important part of the ceremony. All Serbian people have rich Christmas spread. Pork or sarma (cabbage stuffed with rice and ground meat) are inevitable parts of the main meal.
We greet each other with „Hristos se rodi“, which means „Christmas is born“, and the other person answers, „Vaistinu se rodi“ meaning „It is truly born“.
Merry Christmas to all Orthodox people celebrating it!