The happiest holiday in Christianity is celebrated in the Orthodox world on January 7. You shouldn’t do big chores around the house during these days. This is a time to spend with family and friends, reflecting, discussing and planning for the future.
According to folklore, the Christmas celebration begins on Christmas Day. Customs say that only men go to get a Christmas tree. It’s not the same Christmas tree as in other cultures. It’s preferably the Austrian oak, and it’s called badnjak which means – the one that brings joy into the household. A tree is struck with an ax three times and what is not cut is broken with the hands. As most people live in the city today, badnjak is most often bought at the market. But if you have the opportunity, do the traditional custom of going to the forest for the tree, because it’s a beautiful ritual that has been cherished in our tradition for centuries. These type of rituals should be preserved, kept from oblivion, regardless of the style and speed of modern life.
Tree is brought into the house in the evening, and according to tradition, it is brought exclusively by the host. This part of the Christmas celebration is no different. What you do with the tree depends on where you live. Somewhere it’s sprinkled with wheat, somewhere the female head of the house dresses it in a clean shirt, and somewhere honey is being spread on it and then the entire family kisses it. Everyone should respect the customs of their region and family.
When tree is brought into the house, Christmas Eve begins. As there are no more traditional fireplaces, especially for those who live in the city, the custom of lighting Christmas trees has been adjusted. It is easy for those with a fireplace or stoves. The advice for those who live in the apartment is for the host to bring in the tree, go around the room with it, and throw a whole walnut in a shell in each corner. Finally, lean the tree against the east wall of the room. If you go to the Christmas mass at midnight, you can bring the tree and light it together in the churchyard. If you don’t go, you can light a couple of leaves on a candle and put it in a fireproof dish until it burns out.
There is a custom for children from the area to gather and leave home and sing songs that they came up with themselves or that were passed down from generation to generation. This custom is called korinđanje, and in this way they wish their neighbors and relatives a merry Christmas. The songs usually invite the hosts to give the children some presents, which are usually apples and walnuts.
For Christmas Eve, tradition is to fast. Before sitting at the table, the family wishes each other a happy Christmas Eve and reads a prayer.
Today, Christmas Eve is celebrated with friends and extended family, especially in the cities, but primarily this is a family holiday that serves to remind us how important a stable family life is. Especially today, when life is fast and everything is instant, family support is extremely important.
When tree burns out, you can go to sleep, but not before that. Christmas mornings begin with the arrival of the first guest in the house. He is called položajnik. It’s usually the same person every year – someone from the extended family, godfather or best man. Lately it’s the youngest member of the family. This custom is also practiced in the city. Položajnik enters the house with the traditional Christmas greeting “Peace of God. Christ is born”. The host answers “He is born indeed”. According to the customs, he should light a fire and say: “As many sparks, so much health, as many sparks, so much happiness and joy, as many sparks, so much money”. As is seldom where a fire burns, it is practiced that this guest brings a gift, which is traditionally leaving a little change on the east wall of the house. He stays to treat himself with the hosts and receives a small gift – according to the customs, a towel, an apple and a pastry.
Christmas lunch begins with česnica, a bread made especially for this occasion. The name derives from the noun čest, which means “share” – as this bread is shared among family members at the table. The hostess made it early that morning. The host lights a candle, reads Lord’s prayer. Bread is then turned around, so every family member touches every side. After that the host pours the wine over it and it’s broken into pieces, so that each household member gets one piece. There is usually a money token in one piece of the bread, and whoever gets it is believed to be happy all year long.
It is believed that what you do for Christmas you will do all year round, so we want you to spend it with the people you love, in peace and warm conversations.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays.