Slava - Religious practice or reason for meeting our friends and family
The season of saint’s day feasts begins, the time we spend with our family and closest friends, but sometimes it is also an occasion for a big, mass celebration.
The Saint’s Day (Serbian: Slava) is a traditional religious custom that has remained within the Serbian nation and is one of the most important holidays that gathers family and friends, and which is dedicated to a certain saint and guardian of that home. This religious custom dates back to pagan times and emerged in order to maintain a connection with ancestors and origins. However, in these geographical areas this custom has remained unchanged even in Christianity.
In our country, each family celebrates its saint and that saint is selected only once, so slava is passed from generation to generation. Slava is inherited by the sons from the father, often celebrated only by the eldest son, if there are several male children, while daughters take their husband’s slava.
The celebration gathers the whole family, and friends if desired, and a well-established practice among our people is that you are not supposed to invite guests to your celebration, but rather, everyone who comes to the house that celebrates their saint that day, should be served in the best possible way.
Slava is traditionally marked by a table with plenty of food, and it is obligatory that you have the slava bread and wheat. Wheat represents a connection between earthly life and afterlife, and as a church symbol, it resembles a plant sacrifice from the Old Testament. Also, before slava day, a family priest would come to the house with the holy water, from which the slava bread is later made. On slava day, in the morning, the slava bread, wheat and red wine are brought to the church, and upon the return, the slava candle is lit in the house and then the celebration of the patron saint of the house officially starts.
As for the table with plenty of food, today it is often a culinary and wine spectacle that never ceases to surprise all foreign visitors who are lucky enough to be hosted at a traditional Serbian slava feast. Sometimes it even turns into a ridiculous exaggeration, as hosts always want to please their guests and have fun. Depending on whether slava day falls during period of Lent, slava is divided into "fat", i.e. where you can eat animal products, and "fasting", i.e. where you can eat plant products and fish.
There are many slavas. Each date has its own patron saint in the calendar, but the most common slavas among Serbs are: Mitrovdan (November 8), Arandjelovdan (November 21), St. Nicholas (December 19), St. John (January 20), St. George's Day (May 6).
In Serbia, families are entitled to a day off at work when slava day is celebrated. In Belgrade, this is perhaps most easily seen, because in the capital of Serbia, the two most common slavas are St. Nicholas and St. John, so a common joke is that half of the Belgrade citizens celebrate the slava, while the other half visits the first half.
Unfortunately, in these times of pandemic, slavas will be celebrated in a different and perhaps more restricted manner, but they will certainly be celebrated, because tradition must not be forgotten.
Novi apartmani encourage that, but also call on everyone to act responsibly and in line with the current situation and the recommendations of the competent authorities. Also, we suggest to all those who are coming to Serbia for the first time, and who will have the opportunity to visit a traditional slava celebration, to do so, because they will never forget such memorable experience for many, many years.