Saturday, December 6, 2014

Day 4: Serbia

Onwards to Serbia! Did you know that Serbians celebrate Christmas on January 7? The reason they celebrate on this day is because they still follow the Julian calendar, which is different than the Gregorian calendar that most people use. (The Julian calendar was used first, but now most people use the Gregorian calendar, or the "Christian calendar").

There are a lot of different Christmas traditions in Serbia, and sometimes the ones they celebrate depend on where you live in the country. Many people spend the six weeks counting up to Christmas celebrating Advent, which starts four Sundays before Christmas. Advent means "coming" in Latin, so it's literally celebrating the coming of Jesus into the world. During Advent, some people fast or they don't eat food that comes from animals like meat, milk, eggs, etc. Christmas Eve is the last day of the fast, and that night people come together to have dinner, but they still don't eat the above-mentioned foods.

Children breaking the traditional Christmas bread
After Christmas Eve dinner, groups of kids go from house to house knocking on the door, and when it's answered they ask if they can sing. If the neighbor says yes, they sing a Christmas song. As a reward, the neighbor gives the kids candies or sometimes money, and more traditional gifts could include walnuts, prunes, apples and cakes.

One special food that Serbians eat at Christmas is bread called cesnica. Everyone in the family gets a piece, and there is a coin hidden inside the loaf of bread. Whoever finds the coin in their piece is believed to have extra good luck that year.

In Serbian, "Merry Christmas" is Hristos se rodi (with the English alphabet, of course). IN the Cyrillic alphabet, it looks like this: Христос се роди. Serbians also have special greetings they use during the three days of their Christmas celebration. When they see someone, they say, "Christ is born." And the person responds with, "Truly he is born."

Fun Facts: 
*Traditionally on the morning of Christmas Eve, the father of the family

would go into the woods to cut a young oak tree down, but now
people just buy one. They burn this log in the fire, and after the father
A view of Croatia's Risnjak National Park
pours wine or throws wheat grains over the logs, he proposes a toast: “Grant, O God, that there be health and joy in this home, that our grain and grapevines yield well, that children be born healthy to us, that our property increase in the field, pen and barn!”

*People also put some straw under the table so they remember that Jesus was born in a stable. The day after Christmas, the straw is taken
out of the house and little bundles are made with it. Serbians hang these bundles on fruit trees in hopes that they’ll make more fruit next
harvest season!

*Giving gifts on Christmas isn’t a tradition in Serbia. Instead, gifts are
given the three Sundays before Christmas Day. Tradition says that on the first Sunday kids give gifts; on the second married women give gifts; and on the third married men give gifts. Today people don’t always follow this tradition, but this is how Christmas was celebrated for many years in Serbia.

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