The Serbian Orthodox Tradition of Slava

The origins of Slava can be traced back to the early days of Christianity in Serbia

In the case of our neighbour’s family it is Sveti Jovan (Saint John).

The origins of Slava can be traced back to the early days of Christianity in Serbia, when families would celebrate the feast day of their patron saint as a way to give thanks and honor their faith. This tradition has been passed down through the centuries and remains an important part of Serb culture today.

Someone mentioned to me once, that in Paganism (pre Christian times), families used to celebrate a home patron. Christian priests couldn't get that out of tradition, so they improvised.

On the day of the Slava, families gather together to attend church services and partake in a special meal. The meal typically includes traditional dishes such as roast pig, bread, and various types of pastries.

After the meal, families will often share stories and memories, and the older members of the family will offer words of wisdom and advice to the younger generations.

One of the most important parts of the Slava celebration is the lighting of the Slava candle. This candle is lit by the head of the household and symbolizes the presence of the patron saint in the home. The candle is kept burning throughout the day and is used to light the way for the family as they participate in the various rituals and ceremonies of the celebration.

Another important aspect of the Slava is the cutting of the Slava bread (Ćesnica). The bread is traditionally round and is cut into pieces that are distributed to all members of the family and any guests who are present. This symbolizes the sharing of blessings and good fortune among all members of the household.

The Slava is not only an important celebration for families, but it is also an important part of Serbian culture and heritage. It is a time for families to come together, to honour their patron saint, and to remember the rich history and traditions of their people.

The Serbian Orthodox tradition of Slava continues to be cherished and celebrated by Serbs around the world.

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David Pejčinović-Bailey MBE