Christmas in Serbia
The Serbs celebrate Christmas for three consecutive days, beginning with Christmas Day. The Serbian Orthodox Church uses the traditional Julian Calendar, as per which Christmas Day (December 25) falls currently on January 7 of the Gregorian Calendar. This day is called by Serbs the first day of Christmas, and the following two are accordingly called the second, and the third day of Christmas. During this festive time, one is to greet another person with "Christ is Born," which should be responded to with "Truly He is Born." The Serbian name for Christmas is Božić (Cyrillic: Божић, [ˈbɔʒitɕ]), which is the diminutive form of the word bog, meaning 'god'.
This holiday surpasses all others celebrated by Serbs, with respect to the diversity of applied folk customs and rituals. These may vary from region to region, some of them having modern versions adapted to the contemporary way of living. The ideal environment to carry them out fully is the traditional multi-generation country household. In the morning of Christmas Eve an oak tree is felled, and a log cut from it is in the evening ceremoniously put on the domestic fire. A bundle of straw is taken into the house and spread over the floor. The dinner on this day is festive, copious and diverse in foods, although it is prepared in accordance with the rules of fasting. Groups of young people go from house to house of their village or neighborhood, congratulating the holiday, singing, and making performances; this continues through the next three days.
On Christmas Day, the celebration is announced at dawn by church bells and by shooting. A big importance is given to the first visit a family receives that day. People expect that it will summon prosperity and well-being for their household in the ensuing year; this visit is often pre-arranged. Christmas breakfast is the most celebratory meal a family has during a year. A special, festive loaf of bread is baked for this occasion. The main course is roast pork which they cook whole by rotating it impaled on a wooden spit close to an open fire. It is not a part of Serbian traditions to exchange gifts during Christmas. Gift giving is, nevertheless, connected with the holiday, being traditionally done on the three consecutive Sundays that immediately precede it. Children, women, and men, respectively, are the set gift-givers on these three days. Closely related to Christmas is New Year's Day by the Julian calendar (January 14 on the Gregorian calendar), whose traditional folk name is Little Christmas.
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