Prior to visiting Serbia….. if anyone would have asked me what the word SLAVA meant… i would have said ” a slavic woman”. I would have been totally wrong. Serbia is country where 85-90% of the population is Orthodox Christian. They have some very unique traditions and beautiful churches and monasteries spread all over this beautiful country.
Slava or Krsna slava is the celebration of the home patron saint. It is one of the greatest characteristics of the national and religious lives of the Serbian people. It is an exclusively Serbian custom and is one of the most important days of the year for most Serbian families. Slava is actually the celebration of the spiritual birthday of the Serbian people. It is based on the day their ancestors first accepted Christianity. Their saint is a “protector of their home”. They pass the saint down from father to son. There are many, many saints but some of the most common are “nikoljdan” or Saint Nicholas, “jovanjdan” or Saint John, “djurdjevdan” or Saint George, and St Sava … the slava of Serbian Schools…etc…. there are hundreds of them…..
A Slava celebration is most similar to our Thanksgiving day feast. They do have some differing customs depending on the household. Some of the requirements of a slava are :
- picture or icon of the patron saint
- lighted candle or “slavska svijeca”-reminds them that Christ is the “light of the world”
- wheat or “zito” usually grown in a small bowl- represents the death and resurrection of Christ.
- slava bread or cake or “svlaski hlejb ili svlaski kolac”- represents Christ as the bread of life.
- red wine- represents Christs blood
There are different customs depending on the household. Some celebrate with apples floating in wine or rakia and they try to catch them with their mouths. Also the slava bread is broken and each guest is given a piece. Most slavas are a three day event. The majority of Slavas are held during the winter months. There is a saying “where the Serb is, Slava is also”
The first Slava I attended was an amazing and an experience i will never forget. The customary greeting when entering the home is ” cestitamo vam Krsnu Slavu” or “greetings on your patron saints day”…I noticed a bowl of wheat growing on the table and many, many different kinds of food strung about the table. Sarma is one of my favorites. It is soured cabbage rolled up around meat, rice and other ingredients. It is also customary to bring a gift…. exp bottle of wine or flowers.. Don’t eat prior to attending the slava because you will be expected to try everything and that is A LOT!!! We also had live music at my friends home. It is a very unique, special and memorable celebration that you can always treasure! IT IS A MUST WHEN VISITING SERBIA!!!!!!