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Some Serbian traditional customs you' ll want to discover

The weddings

When one thinks of weddings, they perhaps cannot help thinking of this quote ‘It is such a happiness when good people get together -- and they always do’ by Jane Austen

The weddings in Serbia tend to be somewhat different from those in other parts of the region or the world. Some traditions tend to be the same as further afield, but the weddings seem to be slightly different.

So let’s start from the beginning, shall we? You may have heard of some weddings and their somewhat peculiar rites and rituals? Funnily enough , there is a number of a quirky little local customs which go like this : the groom does not use a pistol to shoot at the traditional proverbial apple, the weddings aren’t held under the marquee, which is a huge kind of a tent you may have seen at the weddings held outdoors, as is often the case in more rural local communities in the smaller towns , people tend to listen to all manner of music genres but the Serbian thumping folk music is given a wide berth surely at least in Belgrade , the capital , which is for some a feeling of sheer contempt for what in their view is the music of dubious repute. Weddings are well attended en masse, but certainly with fewer guests in Belgrade than in other parts of the country. One particular idiosyncratic characteristic about Belgrade weddings is the ribbon which the bride wears on her thigh underneath her lavish wedding gown. At some point, the bride lifts her leg a little and the groom is supposed to untie and remove the ribbon/band using his teeth only. On doing that, he is supposed to throw it right in the midst of the crowd of the male guests, since the bride then is supposed to take her ceremonial bunch of flowers, she is holding in her hands which is normally referred to as the bidermajer, which happens to be a loan word from its German equivalent ‘ biedermeier’ , commonly used in its much narrower meaning originally from the eponymous age in the history of art. According to a popular belief the male guest who gets to catch the ribbon is the one believed to be the next in line to get married. On a linguistic note, an idiom used in Serbian vernacular to refer to getting married is ‘ to step foot or to tread on a ‘mad’ stone’, the equivalent of which is ‘ to tie the knot’ or ‘to walk the aisle’ in English

Položajnik for Christmas

Christmas is the greatest Christian holiday. Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7th each year. One of the Orthodox Christian rites and customs locally is the arrival of položajnik in the house on that very day early in the morning . Položajnik is the first person to set foot in the house on Christmas day. He or she is supposed to arrive early in the morning . Položajnik is normally either next of kin, a close friend or a relative or simply a neighbour close to your heart. When he or she enters the house, they head for the fireplace(or what used to be the hearth in yesteryear ) and stokes the fire using a branch of ‘badnjak’, complete with its dry leaves, in order for the fire to produce sparks out of the smoldering cinders. In doing so, the person položajnik wishes the host the best wishes and many happy returns for the forthcoming year ( for the host to keep his good health, for the children to get good grades in school and to earn their livelihood and surely lots of abundance and wealth for the family ……. etc.). After that the hosts serve them a drink and some traditional food and give them a symbolic gift as a token of their respect . For what it’s worth, položiti means to lay ,to lay out, - ajnik is one of the suffixes used for nouns in Serbian language, in this instance in its rather archaic usage.

Vrbice or Cveti

A traditional Christmas festivity by the name cveti i.e. blooms/flowers or vrbice i.e. willows, willow flowers) is held every year on the last Sunday one week before Easter. It is a blissfully happy festivity filled with joy and merriment. In the capital of Belgrade parents with children normally go to the Church of Saint Mark or the Saint Sava Church. In the churchyard families with children gather together , children wearing small jingle bells and stick traditional willow twigs either on their lapels or put the head band-shaped garlands around their heads or alternatively simply hold them in their hands. People mostly go to church in the morning where the chief church priest takes the parents and their children walking around the church in a number of ceremonial loops as part and parcel of this Orthodox Christian festivity. Afterwards, the families return to their homes and spend time together until the day draws to an end.

Let us know if you would like to read more about the local traditions and feel free to send us your own stories of your own local traditions which might or might not be similar to these


written by Marija Bačić , a student of tourism studies at University of Belgrade

translated and edited by Natasha from Angloland

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