If a Serb invites you to his/her home for Slava you should be very honored! Slava is a celebration of patron Saint and it’s a very important family event. This tradition, unique to Serbs dates from the time people in this area accepted Christianity but couldn’t forget their old pagan Gods. Pagan Gods were „Christianized“ and turned into Christian Saints. Although majority of Serbs are Orthodox Christians (Amazon) they are not a very religious nation and from sociological point of view they are considered as believers of four ceremonies, baptism, wedding, funeral and slava. Those are 4 occasions when Serbian religious feelings wake up.
Slava is transferred from generation to generation. It’s traditionally celebrated at home with family and close friends and in the day when social media and internet are top form ofsocializing, this is a perfect opportunity to actually meet people and have a real get together at least once in a year. Getting family and friends together at one table is the most valuable of it’s purposes!
There are 4 basic elements that have to be present on Slava table, candle, slava cake, red wine and cooked wheat. Slava cake is ritually cut either by a priest in the church on themorning service or by the man of the house and first guest that comes. Slava cake represents Christ’s body, wine is his blood, cooked wheat is a symbol of resurrection while candle proclaims Christ as the light of the world. Usually families prepare large feasts for their guests and entire roasted pigs and lambs can be found onthe table followed with many side dishes, salads and desserts.
If slava is during one of 4 big fasts (before Christmas, Easter, day of St. Peter and Paul and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary) or on Wednesday or Friday than food has to be prepared by the rules of the fast which means without meat, eggs and dairy products, but fish is allowed.
In modern days for some families Slava became a way to show off so celebrations are moved from family home to restaurants where they organize luxury dinners for dozens of guests.
The most common patron Saints and Slava days are:
St. Nikola, 19th of December
St. Archangel Michael, 21st of November
St. John the Baptist, 20th of January
St. George, 16th of November and 6st of May
St. Dimitrije, 8th of November
St. Luka, 31st of October
There are summer and winter Slavas. In winter Slava season starts with St. Luka and ends with St. John the Baptist. That Slava is important for Serbian culture confirms the fact that all the employed people in Serbia legally have day off from work for Slava. The day after most common Slavas, when you have to call on several friends, might end up with nobody showing up at work. luckily, your boss will probably be home sick too….
Speaking of Slava, and of taking you drinking to the next level, you need to see the movie Ivkova Slava (Ivko’s Slava). Below has no subtitles and is in Serbian, but I would warmly suggest you get this movie somehow and LEARN:)