Tip # 7…. You MUST experience a Slava!!!!

06 Feb


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 :

  1. picture or icon of the patron saint
  2. lighted candle or “slavska svijeca”-reminds them that Christ is the “light of the world”
  3. wheat or “zito” usually grown in a small bowl- represents the death and resurrection of Christ.
  4. slava bread or cake or “svlaski hlejb ili svlaski kolac”- represents Christ as the bread of life.
  5. 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!!!!!!


Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Uncategorized, When in Serbia


Tags: , , ,

29 responses to “Tip # 7…. You MUST experience a Slava!!!!

  1. BeliOraoSrbija

    February 7, 2012 at 1:22 am

    There is a huge difference between celebrating christian saints, and the start of the largest genocide in world history. That`s right GENOCIDE against the native american Indian population of north america. By the protestants and Masons who came to america.

    There is NO comparing the 2.

    I suggest you google Slava and learn more about them than just FOOD.

    • cather76

      February 7, 2012 at 9:53 am

      my family is native american… cherokee…. i wrote about it from an “american perspective” i got my info from two serbians that celebrate slava… as stated.. i didnt want to go into every aspect of it… thanks for reading all the same…

      • Jelena

        December 9, 2013 at 10:57 pm

        Hi there, please ignore the ignorance of BeliOraoSrbija ! They need to take their hostile. angry, crazy and most of all unprovoked comments elsewhere!!! Charles you described it perfectly! As man of my non Serbian friends would have! Being Serbian it is very similar to Thanksgiving dinner and very dear to us. I hope you still enjoy all the customs, yummy foods, and not someone such as BeliOraoSrbija make us look like arses! Happy Holidays 🙂

    • CrazyAjvar

      February 7, 2012 at 12:26 pm

      I was reading this blog for a while now and I didn’t felt a need to comment. But BeliOraoSrbija made me do it. Don’t be such a judgmental prick. The man just compared the event with the closest thing he knew. You shouldn’t be so extreme in you beliefs. Would get so offended if some one compared Christmas with Eid (bajram)? Sure Ottomans did a terrible things to our people in the past but that doesn’t mean that we should get all high and mighty if some one compares there tradition and ours. That is just low and not in the spirit of Serbian people. We always had many nationalities in our country from the Celtic miners and German Knights in Serbian Empires to do Albanians, Hungarians and others today. Respect others if you want to be respected. And all of this comes from the Atheists as well. Cheers.

      @Charles great job at what you do. Gives me hope that some people can see pass throw all the prejudges and hate. Keep going.

      • cather76

        February 9, 2012 at 4:21 pm

        wow.. what a nice guy!!! i appreciate the nice words!! you are very kind… i didnt intend to offend anyone by making comparisons to our holidays but wanted to give them the closest comparison that I could think of… thanks for the respect…

  2. Dario

    February 7, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    @BeliOraoSrbija If you look at Europes map, how many times has the borders changed? And what do you think happend during these changes? Do you think people was asked kindly to leave?

    Just look at Balkan, how many times have Serbias borders changed? They killed us for our land and we killed them for theirs. That goes basicly for majority of countrys in the world. Only difference is that America has a huge influence around the world.

    Spain, England, France, Portugal have killed more people with their colonies than US, only difference is that those countrys arent super powers.

    If you want spit on US then spit on the 1990 – 2011 foreign politics.

  3. BeliOraoSrbija

    February 8, 2012 at 2:05 am

    Are you from America? It doesn’t sound like you are. You missed the point sorry but your statement holds no merit to this conversation with charle.

    Charles You say you have cherokee indian in your family, ok you should be highly offended at the mention of thanksgiving. You should not celebrate it at all, do you realize that it is a national day of morning since 1979?.
    I would not even say thanksgiving and to compare that to something holy is spitting on the spirits of your ancestors.

    • Dario

      February 8, 2012 at 8:28 pm

      No im not from America, but from here

      Your point on THanks Giving.

      Where do you think “Serbian” words like (se below) come from? Yes Turkey. And what no? We should be offended, after all we were under their rule in 500years.

      astal- table
      alva -some kind of Turkish delights
      kafana- some kind of bars,caffe
      begenisati- to love somebody
      belaj- bad luck, evil
      gajtan- wire
      dućan- some kind of shop, market shop
      đuvegija- boy for marriage
      dušman- enemy
      ćevap- one kind of meat speciality
      čaj- tea
      jarak- canal, hole, gap
      jok- no
      jatagan- some kind of weapon
      kalabaluk- crowd, mob, heap
      konak- some kind of hotel, room for sleep
      komšija- neighbour
      kurtalisati- save, free oneself
      melem- some kind of nature pills
      plajvaz- pen
      pendžer- window
      perišan- some kind of jewelry for woman
      sokak- street
      džakati- speaking loud
      jastuk- pillow
      papuče- slipper
      rakija- one kind of alcohol drink
      avlija- courtyard
      burek- some kind of food
      badava- gratis, free
      gurabije- some kind of cakes
      šećer- sugar
      ratluk- Turkish delights
      čaršav- linen, bed-sheets
      zejtin- oil for cooking
      kapija- fence enclosure
      bostan- watermelon
      džem- jam
      peškir- towel
      ćilim- carpet
      čorba- soup
      sarma- one kind of food

      Im not dissing you in anyway, but give Charles a break man, no one forced him to move to Serbia and like the things he like. Give hime some creds atleast. If you dont like the guy atleast look at him as a marketing product ffs.

      Charles has done more for Serbia than most of us who live abroad.

    • cather76

      February 9, 2012 at 4:17 pm

      it is part of our culture that everyone is aware of… that is why i referenced it….i am aware of more than you think.. we just celebrate Thanksgiving as a time to get together and eat…. nothing more, nothing less!!!! thanks for reading and i intended no disrespect…

  4. Dejan Milovanov

    February 8, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Nice description Charles! I would just correct one thing: You wrote that 85-90 percent of our population iz orthodox christians, which is not completely true, becouse, people who declare themselves as atheists, are being declared as orthodox christians in the official documents by the Church, which is just another way of propaganda… the Church makes money out of it 😦
    I’m gonna try to find the article about the religion of Serbs before the Christianity was enforced upon us, at least most of us, I think you will find it interesting!

    Stay well!

    • cather76

      February 9, 2012 at 4:08 pm

      hey Dejan… yeah.. id love to read it… i am not religious and never have been… thanks for your comment..

    • David

      October 20, 2015 at 7:05 pm

      i think thar our religon was that Slovenian one right?

  5. Popov Aleksandar

    February 8, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    It is so easy to get dragged into a pointless discussion with stupid people. The only solution is not to get involved at all. BeliOraoSrbija why don’t you take your hostile. angry, crazy and most of all unprovoked comments elsewhere. Charles only tries to paint a picture of Serbia as he sees it. Put yourself in his shoes, he cannot learn everything about slava in a couple of months.

    On topic,
    Nice post Charles. Yes there are a few things you left out but that’s totally understandable since this is a blog, not a novel. Looking forward to more stories from your point of view! 😉

    keep up the good work.

    • cather76

      February 9, 2012 at 4:05 pm

      thanks a lot, bro.. you are very kind… i was warned by many of my serbian buddies that people are very sensitive about religious things… i am not religious and just wanted to best describe the celebration .. as you stated… its a blog not a novel… i didnt want to go into a 20 page description.. thanks again

  6. Ana

    February 8, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    I agree with Aleksandar. Charles has only been at ONE Slava. A stranger can’t learn about the tradition of the ENTIRE NATION at one Slava. But he had the best intentions. Can’t you see that he is trying to say something NICE about us?! He made a few mistakes, so what? Haven’t you?
    G-din Beli Orao (za kojeg po načinu pisanja ne bih rekla da ima više od 15 godina, jer samo oni mogu da budu tako impulsivni) as Dario said, we were under Turkish rule for 500 years. If you haven’t notice that is a long period, so it’s normal to keep something from their culture. But tell me, how do you know that your great, great, great, great grandfather wasn’t Turkish AGA? You can’t know that, I can’t, nobody can. But we are trying to keep our tradition, to hold on our religion. I can see that you are SO proud to be Serb, that’s fine, SO AM I! But do you know what is a part of every proud Serb? It’s religion. And do you know what is a part of our religion? Care-for everyone around you, respect-for everyone around you, tolerance-for everyone around you. I believe you know that, you just need a reminder. So don’t be so angry at the man who is trying to do something nice for you, help him to understand…

    • Dario

      February 8, 2012 at 10:29 pm

      Skidam kapu 🙂

  7. Manuela

    February 17, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    As a former student of the Orthodox Theology, I have to say that you amazed me how well you described Slava. Acctually, I’m glad that you first mentioned the historical part and the meaning of Slava, and then the customs (the fun part). 😉
    I’ve been living in US for eight years, and every day brings a new experience about American culture and people. Since I’ve become the U.S. citizen, I’ve held that it would be important for me to take the American history classes at the college I’m currently attending. Of course, many parts of the history and culture you learn from people. I’ve been to several states, but I still haven’t seen enough. There’s so many things to see and experience.
    I’m glad that you experienced Serbia in such a positive way. You are one of the rare people who is willing to explore, observe and learn everything about foreign country, whether it’s good or bad. Keep doing doing this amazing work. I’m looking forward to see more of your postings.
    Thanks a ton!

    p.s. For my dear countrymen Serbs, I wish I was as talented as him to write about my experiences in the U.S. The politics, Hollywood, The Big Brother, Jerry Springer Show,etc is not everything you could learn about this country. There is so many good things I’ve learned about its people and its culture.

    • cather76

      February 18, 2012 at 5:35 am

      wow… i am very happy to read this… it means so much.. i had to share your comment on my facebook page… thanks for taking the time to write it and i really hope you have a great, exciting and enjoyable life in my country!!! respect to you, my friend! thanks for reading!

  8. Ана Радаковић

    February 19, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Hello Charles. I wanted to add something. Something comes before the slava which I suppose could be translated as the drunkening of the slava. Only for family members. You need to have men in the family for this, sadly my family has no men (Grandpa lives in village near Nis) so we never did it. I first saw it at my fiance house. Men take the slavski kolac and circle it in their hand saying in the name of father, son, holy ghost (each must say those words) and they give symbolic kiss to the bread after each of the holy trinity. Not an actual bread kissing though! No worries! they cut a cross in its bottom and a daughter of the family pours wine to it three times.There are also small breads, very tiny, shaped symbolically like house, family, cattle, grain, riches etc, and each of them, along with the bread that is forced open in half and raised above head. Then they say may our wheat grow this big, may our descendants be this tall etc. the grandmother of the family plays with fire in smederevac and says how many fires, that many… they read a prayer together and feast may begin. Prijatno 🙂

  9. Ана Радаковић

    February 19, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    guys. stop.arguing. now.

  10. Ана Радаковић

    February 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm

  11. Manuela

    February 25, 2012 at 1:48 am

    I’m cool with that. 🙂

  12. Aleksandar Mitic

    April 7, 2012 at 3:31 am

    Hey Charles!

    I’m really happy for you for being able to explore, learn about and accept certain customs as well as our people in general and make the best out of it. I can see from your writing and discussion responses that you are a very good person and that’s basically one of the main reasons why I’m leaving this comment now.

    Also, I can identify with what you’ve done and what you’re still doing because I too have a desire to travel somewhere else and settle down at least for some time if not permanently. Learn about the culture, meet different people, try to live as they live and so on. But this would be very difficult in my case since that would mean having to move my entire family and start over. I have a wife and two little daughters. I was always interested in Scandinavian countries particularly.

    I would just like to add that (at least in my humble experience) 3 days of “celebrating” is not really entirely true in most cases. I clearly see the symbolic of the number “3” in Christianity but absolutely none of my friends, relatives and therefore their friends and relatives do not celebrate for the full 3 days.

    Whenever I hear this, I’m immediately reminded of one of our domestic movies titled “Ivkova Slava”. Watch it if you can, you’ll have a good laugh that’s for sure.

    I’m not saying that nobody is celebrating for 3 days, I’m just saying that based on my experience which includes a couple of occasions per year and perhaps around 200 – 300 people whom I know personally, probably none of them celebrates this long. Or at least I’ve never heard anyone mentioning so. Financial reasons, time requirements, energy needed etc.

    I guess the greatest majority of those who celebrate for the full 3 days are located in smaller places, or in other words, villages.

    Think about the guests as well. It’s not really practical to spend 3 full days at someone’s house right? Even a couple of hours everyday will prove demanding. Especially if you have to go to work or anything else of such nature. If I were you, I would change the line from “most slavas are a 3 day event” into “some families celebrate their Slavas for 3 days”.

    Although used by many people as simply a title for a certain event, “Slava” actually means glory, praise and fame depending on the context of the sentence and how the word is constructed.

    Shoot me an email or a facebook message when you have some spare time and I’ll give you more ideas to write about. I’m sure you’ll like some.


    • cather76

      April 13, 2012 at 9:25 pm

      THERE YOU ARE!!!! 🙂 Thanks for the info!! i would love to hear some suggestions… after awhile its hard to think of what to write…. thanks for the info!

      • Aleksandar Mitic

        April 13, 2012 at 10:04 pm

        No worries buddy I’ll help you out with some ideas along the way. 100% factual stuff.

  13. mario

    May 9, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    if you liked attending to slava, try to find movie “ivkova slava” with english subtitles 😀
    you will probably like it 😀

  14. Kiridzic73

    June 10, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    one more thing about serbian slava
    maybe someone mentioned in comments, i didnt read them all
    old slavic pagan gods r now represented as saints
    its like that since serbs accepted christianity
    for example – sveti Ilija is pagan god Perun , etc
    Ilija and Perun have same attributes
    they both drive carriage on sky and killing bad ppl , demons etc using thunder
    its same guy 😀
    dates o celebrate them is same as before christianity
    same is for other saints…

    • cather76

      June 10, 2013 at 6:17 pm

      thanks for your input

  15. David

    October 20, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    there is one thing u missed there can be ”posna” and ”mrsna” slava.Posna is wheter the slava is on a wednsday or on a friday and mrsna is in all of the other days.And also there is always awesome food that u can eat for those 3 days and u get guest and they bring a present that is a chocolate for kids and of course wine 🙂


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