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Thanksgiving for 500 in Serbia

Thanksgiving for 500 in Serbia

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Charles “The Host” Cather

The company I work for, Work and Travel Group, held the largest alumni summer work and travel event in the history of the world this past November.

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500 students from 2008-2016

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Mikser House in Belgrade

We had a massive Thanksgiving event at Mikser House in Belgrade Serbia on Thanksgiving.

upstairs displays

Upstairs displays

We had students from 2008-2016

We had students from 2008-2016

decor

Decor

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Throwing down Red Bull

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Checking in students

Work and Travel crew

Work and Travel Group crew

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Stage

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Can you feel the love?

 

Placing ribbons on each guest

Placing ribbons on each guest

 

We brought in over 500 former students from 2008- 2016 to experience an American Thanksgiving and to win some prizes.

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Students piling in

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Students having some free beverages

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Around 500 former students of summer work and travel

Once the students arrived, they were given coupons for two free alcoholic beverages and unlimited soda, juice and soft drinks. We started off serving some Serbian pies and American pie for them to snack on before our main course.

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Mixing Serbian and American foods. Serbian pie

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American apple pie

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Students enjoying some pie

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Two of my favorite students checking out the displays

We let the students mingle for an hour and then had the prize giveaway. We had the students from work and travel 2015 submit their favorite picture from their summer in the US. Once we received the photo, we placed it on our Facebook page to see which one received the most likes. The three with the most likes, received a refund of their program fee which was between $1,000 and  $1,300! The prize money came from CIEE and Work and Travel Group.

 

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Handing out prizes to the lucky winners

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The winners! Each one won their program fee back! 🙂

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Free pictures from InstaPrint

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Main course of 10 turkeys, gravy, potatoes, cranberry sauce

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Juicy turkey

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Beautifully laid out turkeys

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Students enjoying the meal

I was the host of the entire event so I had to nibble around between talking and preparing for my next presentation. I hated that part of the event because I love to eat.

After dinner, it was time to interview a few of our students about their experiences in the USA.

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Students telling about their experience in the USA

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Some great kids!

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Filip Uzelac telling about his time in St. Louis

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Sinisa Vojvodic discussing Chatham, Massachusetts

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Selecting the winners

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Congratulating the winners

The last segment of the night was another prize giveaway. Puzzle Group donated three vacation packages to be given away at random. We used a lotto wheel to randomly select a number that was on top of their ticket.

The night ended around 11pm when the buses arrived to bring the Nis and Novi Sad students back to their cities. I felt my night was successful as the host. I only had a few minor errors in my presentations. Not bad for someone who hated public speaking in high school.

We had a 5 minutes video made about the whole entire event that you can watch here.  A great time was had by all of the attendees.

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Posted by on December 23, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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USA vs Serbia….. Comparing holidays….


I have been to many places and experienced very unique and unforgettable moments. Holidays and traditions are two things that I always find interesting.  I thought it would be worthwhile  to list the majority of holidays that are celebrated in the USA and Serbia.

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The United States of America is a country that is broken into 50 states and each has their own laws and implementation of holidays. We don’t have national holidays in which every employee receives mandatory days off. It is only mandatory for federal employees. Each state sets their own holiday schedule based on local customs. They have their own state holidays.

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Federal holidays…….

  1. New Year’s Day– Jan 1st…..celebrates start  Gregorian calendar new year
  2. Martin Luther King Jr Day…..3rd Sunday in Jan- Birth of civil rights leader
  3. President’s Day– 3rd Monday in Feb….. combination of Washington and Lincolns birthdays
  4. Memorial Day– Last Monday in May…..honors those killed in our many wars
  5. Independence Day– July 4th….. celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence
  6. Labor Day– First Monday in September…..celebrates the workers and labor movement
  7. Columbus Day– 2nd Monday in Oct….. discoverer of USA… some states celebrate Indians instead
  8. Veterans Day– Nov 11….. honors all veterans and the end of WW1
  9. Thanksgiving– 4th Thur in Nov…..traditionally celebrates thanks for autumn harvest .. turkey dinner
  10. Christmas – December 25th…..celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ
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Other informal, traditional or religious holidays celebrated in the USA…..

  1. Epiphany– Jan 6th…..celebrates baptism of Jesus , manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles..etc
  2. Mardi Gras– Feb or March varies……. french for FAT TUESDAY or last chance to eat fat before Lent
  3. Groundhog’s Day– Feb 2nd…..groundhog is released to predict more winter or start of spring
  4. Valentine’s Day– Feb 14th…..celebration of love and romance.
  5. St Patrick’s Day– Mar 17th…..celebration of Irish culture… wearing green and drinking green beer
  6. April Fools’ Day– Apr 1…..day of playing tricks and pranks
  7. Palm Sunday– Sunday before Easter….. celebrates Jesus entry into Jerusalem.
  8. Good Friday– Fri before Easter…… commemorate crucifixion and death of Jesus
  9. Easter– Sunday after Good Friday…..commemorates the resurrection of Jesus
  10. Earth Day– Apr 22nd…..celebration and recognition of our environment … pick up litter etc
  11. Arbor Day– Last Sun in April….. celebration of our trees.. most people plant trees on this day
  12. May Day– May 1st…..in US , celebration of Spring and organized labor
  13. Cinco de Mayo– May 5th….. in USA celebration of Mexican culture..  don’t confuse it with Mexican Independence Day, that is on Sept 16th
  14. Mother’s Day– 2nd Sunday in May….. Celebration and appreciation of your mother
  15. Flag Day– June 14th…..commemorates the adoption of the USA flag, in 1777
  16. Father’s Day– 3rd Sun in June…… celebration and appreciation of our father
  17. Women’s Equality Day– Aug 26th….. celebrates adoption of 19th amendment and marks the day of protest in 1970, when women protested nationwide for equality
  18. Patriot Day– Sept 11th…..commemorates the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 01
  19. Constitution Day– Sept 17th….. celebrates the adoption of our constitution
  20. Rosh Hashanah– Sept or Oct varies…… Jewish celebration for beginning of High Holidays and Hebrew calendar new year.
  21. Yom Kippur– Sept or Oct varies…..Jewish celebration … known as “Sabbath of rest”
  22. Halloween– Oct 31….. originally celebrated the end of Celtic year but also eve of All Saint’s Day.. kids dress in costumes and go door to door for candy and snacks .. if they do not receive any.. they do tricks on the homeowner… like take a bar of soap and smear on windows and throw toilet paper in the trees
  23. Election Day– 1st Tuesday in Nov….. observed by federal and state in applicable years… voting
  24. Black Friday– Friday after Thanksgiving…… start of shopping season… the busiest shopping day of the year
  25. Hanukkah– Dec varies….. Jewish holiday commemorates rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt in the 2nd century BC
  26. Pearl Harbor Day– Dec 7th……day to remember the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese  Dec 7th, 1941
  27. Immaculate Conception Day– Dec 8th….. commemorates Virgin Mary being kept free from sin…
  28. Christmas Eve– Dec 24th….. night before Christmas… almost every business is closed
  29. Kwanzaa– Dec 26th- Jan 1st…..African American holiday celebration
  30. New Year’s Eve– Dec 31st….. Last day of Gregorian calendar year….

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Misc info……

Many states have their own holidays. Here are some interesting observances……

  • California and Ohio celebrate Rosa Parks day… she is the African-American who refused to sit in the back of the bus and led to major civil rights activity and reform
  • Three states celebrate Susan B Anthony Day… she was a prominent figure in the women’s rights movement in the USA.
  • California celebrates Cesar Chavez Day and two others mark it optional… he was a Latino farm hand that was essential in the creation of the National Farm Workers Association and Latino rights activist
  • Only 12 states recognize Good Friday as a state holiday…..
  • Nine states celebrate Confederate Memorial Day…..celebrates the lives of those killed fighting for the confederacy in the Civil War
  • A few southern states celebrate Jefferson Davis Day…. it celebrates the birth of the Confederate States of Americas leader Jefferson Davis
  • In my state of Illinois … we celebrate Casimir Pulaski Day…. he was a heroic, US military, cavalry officer that was born in Poland and helped defeat the British in the Revolutionary War. We celebrate it because of our large Polish community in Chicago
  • Malcom X Day…. celebrated in California

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Serbian holidays…….

I have only been in Serbia for 9 months but I have noticed one thing…. SERBS LOVE HOLIDAYS AND CELEBRATIONS!!!! During the winter months, there’s non stop celebrations… I work at many different schools and most of the time I would only have one or two kids show up for class because they would all be attending some kind of holiday celebration……Serbs don’t make a lot of money but you would never guess by looking at the menu!!! They throw everything at you but the kitchen sink!!! My favorite thing about attending many of the feasts was being able to take home some leftovers!!!! 😉 My buddies mom always sends me home with lots of goodies because I growl around and complain because I can’t cook!!! 🙂 hahaha…

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Serbian public holidays……

  1. Božić– Jan 7th…..  pronounced (bozhich) this is Serbian Orthodox Christmas… it is celebrated on the 7th of Jan because of the use of the Julian calendar.
  2. Nova GodinaJan 14th….. this is Orthodox New Year
  3. Dan državnosti SrbijeFeb 15th or 16th…… anniversary of the first Serbian uprising in 1804 and the first Serbian constitution in 1835
  4. Veliki petakvaries….. Orthodox Good Friday… commemorates crucifixion of Jesus
  5. VaskrsSunday after Good Friday….. Orthodox Easter celebration of resurrection of Jesus
  6. Vaskrsni ponedeljak– Monday after Easter…… Continuation of Easter celebration
  7. Praznik radaMay 1st….. International Workers Day… celebration of labor
  8. Dan primirja– Nov 11th… Armistice Day…celebrates the end of WW1
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Additional holidays.……
Serbia is predominately Orthodox Christian but they have a large minority of Catholic and other Western Christian sects, a smaller Jewish and Muslim minority also…. Here are a list of holidays and observances given to them…..
  1. New Years Day– Jan 1st…. celebration of the beginning of the Julian new year
  2. Good Friday-varies…. commemorates crucifixion of Jesus
  3. Easter– varies…… resurrection of Jesus
  4. Easter Monday-day after Easter- continuation of Easter celebration
  5. Eid ul-Fitr…. Muslim celebration of end of Ramadan
  6. Eid al-Adha… Muslim celebration of “festival of sacrifice”
  7. Yom Kipper…..Jewish holiday.. “sabbath of rest”

Additional working holidays in Serbia……

  1. Sveti Sava– Jan 27th…..St Sava Day… he is known as the Patron Saint of Serbian schools.. all schools are closed on this day.
  2. Don Secanje Na Zrtve Holokausta– Apr 22…..remembrance of those who died in the holocaust, WWII, and through genocide
  3. Dan Pobede/ Dan Evropa– May 9th…. Victory Day or Europe Day..celebrates the defeat of the Germans in 1945 or the signing of the Schuman Declaration  of 1950… which called for an organization of European states.. similar to the E.U
  4. Vidovdan– June 28th…… Saint Vitus Day…..remembrance of the Battle of Kosovo….
  5. Dan Secanje Na Srpske Zrtve– Oct 21…. National WW2 Victims Remembrance Day… day to remember all the thousands of Serbs killed during German occupation

Last but not least…….

That didn’t seem like a lot of holidays did it??? I saved the best for last…. Serbia also celebrates hundreds of Slavas. That is the celebration of the families patron saint. It is called Krsna Slava in Serbian.ImageI have tried to find the total number of saints but have never gotten a concrete answer. Slava is a very important celebration for Serbian Orthodox families. It has many wonderful, unique and traditional foods, songs, methods and decor… Here is a link to a Slava forum that can provide many answers and the ability to converse with those that have the knowledge on the subject!!! http://www.slavorum.com/index.php?topic=1001.0My experience was written about in a previous blog entry!!! My memories were of lots and lots of awesome food, traditional music, and the  bringing together of family and friends!! It is a must for all of you traveling to Serbia!! There are Slavas all year round but the best are in the Winter time!!!!

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Both countries have great holidays and traditions!!!!! We all have more in common than our governments want us to think!!!! I wish I could bring all the Serbian kids to the USA and all the American kids to Serbia!! We would develop a life long love and respect for each others rich and beautiful traditions!!!!

I am not a religious fanatic and have very little knowledge in the details of many of these holidays. Please understand that before you leave me a bad comment because I didn’t fully discuss something! This is a blog not a book and I don’t want to bore people with the tiny details.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2012 in USA vs Serbia

 

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


 

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!!!!!!

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

 

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