Christianity


Rag and Bone
~ A Journey Among the World’s Holy Dead
by Peter Manseau

This book is one of my top 2009 reads; moreover before I sent it away I had to reread it 🙂

It is also probably most surprising reading experience I’ve had for a very long time. It’s a great travelog, it’s incredibly funny, equally educational, shocking (how surprising!), ticklingly blasphemous, and absolutely bizarre!

You really would not even imagine (if you’re unfamiliar with the world of relics like myself) what people are able to do with something (human origin) that consider sacred but even worse is to see what Church (!!!) is doing. I was really shocked so many times while reading this book.

First paragraph (I love it!):
”This is a book about dismembered toes, splinters of shinbone, stolen bits of hair, burned remnants of an anonymous rib cage, and other odds and ends of human remains, but it is not book about death. Around every one of the macabre artifacts that, for a variety of reasons, have come to be venerated as religious relics, circles an endless orbit of believers and skeptics, bureaucrats and clergy, con artists, and just plain curious souls. This is a book about life.”

Manseau has done fantastic research about the issue covering all major religions. There are very informative story about each relic while being part of precise human being and that’s very interesting. But the story of the body after soul continued its journey, is stunning! I found that my own religion as the most bizarre (probably because it’s mine). I was more than once reacted like “Oh gosh no! They didn’t! How could they?” and even “Oh hurry up and lets move to Buddhism!” (I‘m joking!) And then the most pathetic: “OK I’m Christian but at least I’m not Catholic”. There are many (I guess ) blasphemous moments; but then how not be blasphemous when you’re reading about Holy Prepuce (Jesus foreskin)!?!? I didn’t even know such thing even exists and is worshiped (by the way do you know the origin of the Saturn’s rings? Go figure! You wouldn’t believe; there is no way you would even guess!)! Or few churches that each enshrines a head of John the Baptist in the same time?!? I’ve seen in Spain part of The Cross (later I’ve found out there are so many pieces of that same cross that Romans must have deforest entire Middle East to made it) also I’ve seen the hand of some saint and then I thought it’s quite morbid (now I see that was actually light image).

What I liked is that Manseau is never offensive; I don’t think he’s hurting religious being in his readers. At least he didn’t hurt mine. He’s looking from a rational point of view on something which is in enormously large scale not rational whatsoever.
As I said he’s very witty and don’t expect from this book to be profoundly serious. Quite opposite; it looks like a coffee chat … OK I admit, the topic would be quite insane but still a coffee chat. And what I liked the most in this book is how people are 100% ready to believe in something so unlikely accurate and even to actually feel the sacred power of it; whether that is a shinbone or a pebble founded in the ash after cremation. It’s really amazing.

From the blurb:
”Manseau’s “Rag and Bone” reads like a novel, entertains like a TV docudrama, and educates like the best college professor you ever had. It is at once informative, quirky, and funny. Do people really think that the leathery tongue of 12th century saint can bless them with good fortune? They do. Why do people believe in such weird things as the holy relics of religion? Read this book to find out. WARNING: you may well discover that you also hold beliefs in holy relics and not even know it!”

Here I’d like to mention one vignette I found very interesting. It’s part of the relics in Buddhism, religion I know little about. The only Buddhist I know personally is my dear friend Shanna (whose BLOG is one of  virtual places I regularly visit; check why) who told me while visiting me in Belgrade something very interesting: That Buddhism is actually not religion but philosophy.  Reading this book helped me to fully realize her words.

There is a story in the book about the Temple of the Tooth in the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka. Of course it’s worshiped and moreover in Myanmar they made a replica equally worshiped as “the original”. As I said I knew little about Buddhism but I knew that much to see a mountain-sized contradiction. And here is an explanation:

There are two branches in Buddhism: one that is following Siddhartha’s words how we should disconnect ourselves from impermanent things in our life (which is basically everything) and the one that is doing completely opposite thing: that is worshiping something so undoubtedly impermanent such is human body (i.e. Siddhartha’s tooth) and even ready to die for. But what was incredibly surprising is that Siddhartha was fully aware that people would hear his sermons and understand what he had meant or they would hear them and understand the exact opposite. He never denied that he told people what they needed to hear to affect necessary change in their lives. He knew that his followers would take from his message parts they needed the most. For some that meant philosophy, for others that meant teeth.

So what about relics? And should they necessary be connected with religion? Are they mandatory sacred? What one relic could be?

“Relics seem to me to admit that, yes, while we do have spiritual dimension to our lives, we are also flesh under the looking glass of all those around us. Our lives and or deaths are witnessed by others, and what our lives might mean to them is mostly beyond our control. We are simultaneously people who need symbols to survive, and we are symbols ourselves. Our bodies – our toes and shins, our foreskins and ribs, our hands and whiskers, our teeth and hair – have the capacity to tell stories we can not imagine. And the facts of our lives can be as mysterious and in need of explanation as anything that lies beyond.”

This is without doubt one of the best nonfiction book I’ve read in years. I so didn’t expect this. I didn’t know what to expect at all. I was attracted with the bizarre topic it deals with and was hooked from the page 1.

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Four years ago, on March 17th 2004 the biggest attack on Serbs since arrival of international UN peacekeeper troops has happened. Attacks on Serbian enclaves and mass destruction of their properties were apparently surprised international forces and their reaction was too late and too weak. During this ethnic cleansing 4000 Serbs have been banned from Kosovo, 19 people lost their lives; 6 towns and 9 villages were completely ethnically cleaned. 800 houses has been destroyed and 35 churches/monasteries and 18 cultural monuments.

“Cause” for this attack was campaign of Albanian media against Serbs who have been accused for death of three Albanian boys who have drowned in the Ibar river. Investigation performed by UNMIK showed that those accusations were false.

March 2004 part 1

March 2004 part 2

Four years later investigation is not over; organizers of the ethnic cleansing are still free. Reconstruction of damaged houses is minor.

And today, on the anniversary KFOR has manifested its power against Serbian clerks in the court of Kosovska Mitrovica. Few days ago Serbian clerks have taken court building demanding to reestablish rule of law; they wanted to go back and start work again. They protested in a front of the court since 21st Feb and since the officials were deaf they managed to enter in the building last Friday. Of course now is clear why they didn’t have any difficulties then. What have happened today was planned from a start. Of course it was completely unnecessary.

This morning at 5.30 am soldiers were broke windows were the clerks slept, they tied them refusing any talk, took their cell phones and arrested them. I should tell you that those clerks are middle aged people who worked in juridical bureaucracy which means that any force was unnecessary. But of course since they were watching ethnic cleansing four years ago and done nothing KFOR decided to use an extra force today.

Naturally when Serbs in the town found out what is going on in the Court building they surrounded it demanding to let go arrested people.

More than 100 people are injured mostly of shock bombs, tear gas and explosions.

What a proper anniversary! UN forces are forcing democracy indeed; who needs law in the presence of peacekeepers anyway!

Thursday Thirteen

1. Today I received an e-mail from a friend as his reaction about my previous blog post about Kosovo secession from Serbia. This isn’t nearly easy thing to write and I don’t have clear concept so forgive me if this TT is a little bit chaotic.

2. Few months ago I stopped to post comments on blogs about Kosovo independence after I received more/less same comments. Namely while debating with the authors, on their question what argument Serbia has I was answering “International Law and Charter of the United Nations” and usually reply was “Well yes, but that is only thing you have. What is else?” Oh, I didn’t realize that’s not enough. Of course it wasn’t enough. And why? Because International Law can be changed, depends of the issue because of something I’ll be accused, charged, executed you could be awarded! The only catch is what’s in judges’ interest, right?

3. My friend in his e-mail mentioned democratic values, he even said how his country “tries to promote democracy worldwide”; my comment on that is that he doesn’t realize enormously fortunate fact that he’s not familiar with the methods of achieving this noble goal his country has and how he’s blessed cause he doesn’t know how many faces that “democracy” has, again depends of the issue and the interest.

4. Not only he, everyone is talking about democracy and law and how these two will be the fundament of this newborn country. But somehow everyone is neglecting the fact that this newborn has been conceived precisely by flagrant violation of those fundamental values. As if they said “I was nasty but don’t punish me. Close your eyes just this time and I promise I’ll be good in future” and big players closed their eyes. Or they even turned their back completely. They avoided Security Council UNO, they neglected their own laws, the same scenario they used with NATO aggression on Yugoslavia. Of course this is still the same film so why would methods be different?

5. It’s so disgusting to read statements from international community how “Serbia is a friend, ally in both World War who has scarified so much” (indeed Serbia is a country who suffered the most of all countries in WWI. 33% of entire population or 60% male population of Serbia lost their lives).

There are statements that says that “Serbs are our Christian brothers”; well why don’t you look what you have done to your Christian brothers:

6.

Dozens of churches, monasteries and shrines have been destroyed or damaged since the UN military forces came 1999 in Kosovo, the cradle of Orthodox Christianity in Serbia. The Serbian Orthodox Church lists nearly 150 attacks on holy places, which often involve desecration of altars, vandalism of icons and the ripping of crosses from Church rooftops. 800 houses and 29 Serb Orthodox churches and monasteries – some of them dating to the 14th century — were torched in only few days (these are data from March 2004).

7. 15th century Devic Monastery:

You can click on these images to see Serbian religious and historical heritage on Kosovo:

8. All this happened despite the presence of UN peacekeeping forces.
And you awarded them with a country. It seems some instances of ethnic cleansing are more acceptable than others.

9. Yes, other friend of mine posted a comment on my previous blog post and she said that “Changes are scary”. Oh indeed but I’m not sure that we think about the same thing. She probably meant on changes here (on local level) but in reality the worst change and the scariest one is on global level: law has been dismissed! Everything is possible now when Pandora’s Box is open. Declaration of independence of Kosovo is a means towards legitimizing the dissolution and breaking up of sovereign states on a global scale. Gosh well known politician and “expert” for Balkan Carl Bildt said “we must preserve at
least a semblance of international law”
about recognize this independence. (here I don’t have a comment)

10. Of course many other regions want to declare independence as well but big player said “Kosovo is a unique case”. Oh? Why’s that? Maybe because the biggest US military camp Bondsteel is there and not in Abkhazia or South Ossetia or Nagorno-Karabakh or Taiwan or Palestine or Basque province or Catalonia? You’re not familiar with that camp? Oh just wait, soon you’ll watch braking news from there because 11. the Kosovo declaration of independence was a declaration of dependency and surrender to colonial forces. And I’m not sure if they (Kosovars) realizing that. You should know that Kosovo prime minister was a commander of KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army), drug-smuggling, arms-trafficking terrorist organization which is still active. The KLA was among the first international terrorist groups linked to al Qaeda in the late 1990s. Western intelligence agencies observed its members training at al Qaeda terror camps a decade ago and more. It was listed as a terrorist organization by CIA but in spite that it has been supported by US government.

12. Without any doubts Kosovo would have had greater independence as an autonomous province in an agreement of autonomy with Serbia but the talks between Serbia and Kosovo were never meant to succeed because the US was determined to establish another protectorate in the former Yugoslavia. During last session of negotiations they were stressing that if negotiation failed the only solution will be independence and that they are willing to accept it. Under those circumstances what motivation Kosovo team had for further negotiation? Kosovo leaders just waited deadline to do what they’ve done.

13. And they have transformed their land into a colonial outpost of Anglo-American interest. Under the so-called independence roadmap, NATO and E.U. troops and police officers will formally administer Kosovo. And if you think the KLA will accept that, you don’t have a clue how wrong you are, you’re breast-feeding a snake (we know, we’ve been there, fight against terrorism didn’t wait 9/11).
In God you trust? Well if you’re doing all this in the name of your God then he is not God I believe in but do pray your God that you have enough milk.

P.S.
If you’d like to leave your comment please scroll up!

Thursday Thirteen

1. I was absent for so long but OK I’m back now with another Serbian story for cold Thursday (actually Wednesday) evening. This time I’ll write about one exclusively Serbian custom: Slava.
2. Slava is a religious custom and it represents the day of the home/family’s Patron Saint. It’s unique in Christian world and represents one of the greatest characteristic of the religious life of the Serbs.
3. Slava is actually celebration of spiritual birthday of Serbian people. Namely our ancestors have had accepted Orthodox Christianity collectively by families and in commemoration of their baptisms, each family began to celebrate in a special way to honor the saint on whose day they received the sacrament of Holy Baptism.
4. St. Paul said that each Christian family is church by itself and just as churches are dedicated to one saint (who is protector of the church), Serbian families place themselves under the protection of the saint on whose holiday they became Christians. 5. To that protector of their homes, they pay special homage from generation to generation, from father to son, each and every year.

St Arhangel Michael

6. The celebration of Slava requires the Icon of the family Patron Saint (mine is St Archangel Michael, you can see the icon) and several items that symbolize Christ and the believer’s faith in his death and resurrection: a lighted candle, žito, bread, and red wine.
7. Candle reminds us that Christ is the Light of world. Without Him we would live in darkness.
8. Žito represents the death and resurrection of Christ . Žito is prepared as an offering to God and also is to honor the Patron Saint and to commemorate our ancestors.
9. Bread represents Christ as the Bread of Life and 10. the red wine, of course, represents Christ’s blood.
11. As I said Patron Saint of my family is St Archangel Michael and we are celebrating his day every 21st November (so that was last Wednesday) and it is occasion to whole family and friends gathered.
12. I could say I’m a religious person I guess but I don’t like to express my religion publicly and also there are many things I’m not familiar with. for example I had to check symbolism of certain custom (that’s probably normal since those are become common part of my life).
13. However, in Serbia there are many atheists but they are also respecting institution of Slava as a beautiful part of Serbian tradition. There is such a strong bond between Slava and being Serbian so that people often forgets it’s actually religious celebration.

Thursday Thirteen

1. Every nation has 1 date in its history which it considers more important than any other. For the Serbs, the most important date in their history is June 15, by the old calendar – June 28, by the new calendar (Vidovdan).
2. On that day, in 1389, 618 years ago, Serbian and Turkish armies clashed on the Kosovo Field. Both the Serbian ruler Tzar Lazar and the Turkish Sultan Murad I died as a result of the battle. Based on many of the Turkish historical records, it is believed that th
e Sultan was killed by Miloš Obilić who was pretending to be dead, while the Sultan was walking in the battlefield after the battle. On the other hand, in one account in Serbian records he was assassinated by Miloš Obilić, who made his way into the Turkish camp on the pretext of being a deserter and knelt before the Sultan. He stabbed him in the stomach while kneeling before him.

3. According to historical documents neither the Serbs nor the Turks won the battle, Serbia was so exhausted that it was unable to continue resisting the Turks’a few decades later the heirs of Prince Lazar recognized Turkish suzerainty and 5 centuries of domination of the Serbs by the Turks ensued. That long and martyrlike enslavement changed the course of Serbian history and interrupted the cultural progress of the Serbs, which was clearly evident during the rule of the Nemanja dynasty.

4. It is difficult to assess the importance of the Kosovo Battle for world history. Such is also the case with the battles at the Alamo or Gettysburg, which are so important for American history. However, it is undeniable that the Battle of Kosovo was exceptionally significant not only for Serbia, but also for Europe and European Christian civilization. (The Painting is “The Kosovo Maiden” by Uroš Predić 1857-1953) The Kosovo Maiden

5. It is a fact that on Vidovdan, June 28, 1389, the Serbs, without help from a single European nation, defended on Kosovo Field not only the frontiers of their own territory and lives of their people, but, at the risk of losing their national independence, they also defended the interests and security of Christian Europe. In the conflict of 2 rival civilizations, the Muslim and the Christian, the Serbs checked the wave of the Turkish invasion, interposed themselves as a wall between the Turks and Europe, and enabled Europe to make preparations for its own defense. 6. It is questionable whether the history of Europe would have been the same without the Battle of Kosovo and the sacrifice of the Serbian nation.

7. No matter how great the historical value of Kosovo and Vidovdan may be, for the Serbs they have an additional unique dimension and preeminence. Persons of non-Serbian origin may consider Kosovo as only a far-away, strange, and, even, unimportant geographical territory, and Vidovdan, June 28, 1389, as a date of a battle of which they know little or nothing. 8. As far as the Serbs are concerned, Kosovo is their Holy Land, the cradle of Serbdom, and their inalienable, historical, national, and cultural heritage. As far as they are concerned, Vidovdan, June 28, 1389, is not just the date of a battle, but their nation’s identity, and the sacred will and testament which contains religious, ethical, and national principles for all Serbian generations from the Kosovo Battle until the present. 9. In the national consciousness all of Serbian history is divided into 2 periods: prior to the Kosovo Battle and after the Kosovo Battle.

10. As a geographical territory, Kosovo was Serbian even before the year 1389, before Vidovdan. That ownership was not marked by sticks, in the way the prospectors for gold marked their claims, nor by the deeds written in ink on paper, but by ancient and magnificent churches and monasteries and by Serbian cemeteries and tombstones. The capitals of Serbian kings and the thrones of Serbian archbishops and patriarchs were in Kosovo.

11. In the course of 6 centuries the geographical boundaries and demographic constituency of Kosovo, as well as the political and social conditions have changed. Serbs, who represented a majority in Kosovo, have been reduced to a minority. Uncontrolled migration of thousands of people from neighboring Albania to Kosovo on one hand and, on the other, mass exodus of Serbs from that territory, because of the merciless oppression to which the Serbs have been subjected by the newcomers, especially in the period 1943-1988, has changed the status of the Serbian population from a majority to a minority. Atrocities, unheard of even in uncivilized countries, have been perpetuated against the Serbian population in Kosovo. (Observe the eyes of Queen Simonida; an Albanian has dug out her eyes. It is fresco from the Gracanica monastery built between 1317-1321)

12. This is why we say that Kosovo is Serbian Golgotha. It is the Cross through which one nation entered into eternity and uncovered the eternal and divine dimensions of its existence.

13. After arrival of UN forces in the province more than 200 churches and monasteries have been destroyed. Majority from 12th-14th century; some of targeted monasteries are part of UNESCO World Heritage.

(PS
My apologize to everyone who have left comments here and whose blogs I can’t visit. Namely I still have problem to open certain blogs (not all) on blogger.)

EDIT TO ADD:

I have been asked to explain how is celebrated today.

Vidovdan is religious day; it is the Day of St Vitus (in Serbian St Vid (“Vid” is a name but also in Serbian means “Eyesight”). St Vid was a healer especially he was healing problems with eyes. But as of Battle of Kosovo Serbian Orthodox Church is celebrating that day as day of St Vid but also as the day of Holly Tsar Lazar and holly warriors of Kosovo.

In every Serbian Orthodox church in the world there are liturgy and requiem for all victims of Kosovo, from 1389 ‘till the present day. That’s why today is not happy day, we shouldn’t sing or dance today.

Vidovdan commemorations, which have been celebrated annually for centuries on the field where battle has been, are reconfirmations of both the Serbian ownership of Kosovo and of the Vidovdan-Kosovo ethics, which are the core of the Serbian national image and the essence of Serbian identity.

It should be emphasized that the Vidovdan commemorations are not celebrations of a Serbian military victory over the Turks, for the Serbs were not victorious in the Kosovo Battle. However, it is incorrect, and even malicious, to claim that at Vidovdan commemorations the Serbs “celebrate their defeat in the Kosovo Battle.”

On those occasions the Serbs honor and commemorate the heroes of Kosovo who laid down their lives defending their faith, freedom, nation, and country. At the same time, Vidovdan commemorations are the annual reviews of the post-Kosovo Serbian generations. They are evaluated in terms of Vidovdan-Kosovo ethics and on the basis of their reconfirmation of the Pledge of Kosovo. On Vidovdan, June 28, 1389, on the Kosovo Field, the Serbs chose once and for all their religious, cultural, ethical, and national identity. Their choice, in the form of an unwritten pledge, was handed down to all post-Kosovo Serbian generations and, through 600 years, Serbs have lived by that pledge.

Thursday Thirteen

13 things about my beautiful Orthodox Christmas:

OK I just came back from my Christmas “vacation” (I’ve spent Christmas with my family) and thought to write about how we celebrate Christmas here.

1. First to explain why Orthodox Christians are celebrating Christmas 7th January? It’s simple: four Orthodox Churches (Russian Church, monasteries on Holly Mount Athos, Jerusalem Patriarchy and Serbian Church) are following Julian calendar (which is 13 days behind Gregorian calendar (which is official one) so actually we are celebrating Christmas on 25th December as well 🙂
The Gregorian reformation of the calendar came into force in 1582. It made corrections to the Julian calendar. Like everybody else, we fully accepted the new calendar, but all of our holidays are still celebrated according to the Julian calendar.

2. It’s stupid to say that Christmas is very religious holiday. But here, Christmas is probably the most religious holiday of all. It’s not about shopping but about feelings and tradition. It’s very spiritual and not material holiday. There is no shopping fever at all (except for Christmas traditional dinner)

3. Something that is typical and very important in Orthodox Christianity is Lent.
There are few important Lents during the year (also each Wednesday and Friday with few exceptions are Lent days) but Christmas (and Easter) Lents are the biggest ones.
Christmas Lent lasts 40 days and during that period people should purify their bodies as well as souls. In practice that means:
You should eat ONLY vegetables and fruits (and their products), fish and honey. Meat, milk (and dairy products), eggs, lard and other animal products are forbidden.
And unfortunately that is where is frontier for majority.
Equally (and probably more) important part of Lent is that spiritual. Lent is period of forgiveness and positive thoughts (and works) etc.
(of course, having sex is part of meaty and milky menu)

4. Very important thing during the Lents is confession.
If someone is preparing for confession s/he has to obey more strictly Lent: Food prepared ONLY on water without any vegetable that contains oil (olive, sunflower, walnut, fish too etc). The most common (or at least that’s what I’m doing) people are having strict Lent one week (usually first one) and at the end of that week they make confessions. After it they eat either usual food (meat) except Wednesday and Fridays and last Lent’s week, or eat food for normal Lent (not strict).

5. Day before Christmas (6th Jan) is Badnje Veče (Christmas Eve) and it’s very important and full of specific customs (even more than Christmas). The name for our Christmas Eve actually got its name from the badnjak tree (Yule log). Badnjak is branch of an oak.

Oak is holly tree for Serbs and roots of that custom is probably from the pagan times. Later that belief has been Christianized. Each village in Serbia has on its periphery one (or one on each four sides) huge oak as a protector.
It is a custom that the father and the oldest son of a household go out on the morning of January 6 in search of the right badnjak. (oak branches with leaves). When the right one is found, it is necessary to cut it and bring it to the door of the home and to leave it there.
In the villages, where one still can find homes with old-fashioned hearths, the custom is that the father and the oldest sun go out to pick up the badnjak and to nock on the door of their home. Mother opens the door. Entering, they should say to the mother: “Welcome to you Badnje Veče! (“Christmas Eve”)” and take the badnjak to the fireplace and place it on the fire to augur good fortune.

The burning of the badnjak is a ritual which is as I wrote most certainly of pagan origin and it is considered a sacrifice to God so that the coming year may bring plenty of food, happiness, love, luck and riches.

Today, as most Serbs live in cities, badnjak could be bought at a marketplace like Christmas tree, or is sometimes received in church after church service. Often just a little oak branch, badnjak is lit at home symbolically.

6. The custom is also to put straw around the fireplace (or somewhere in the living room), to simulate the connection with the earth. Usually, we put coins, walnuts, almonds, dry figs on the straw, all the gifts for the children. That’s very fun since the children suppose to chirp like chicken while they searching gifts in a straw.

This is my niece in the straw last Christmas (don’t have photos from this year)

7. Christmas Eve supper is very interesting. It is very rich even if it is always meatless meal. Symbolically the food is always related to the world of death – baked beans, fish, dried figs, dried plums and apples.

For example the most common dish is “Pijani Šaran” (Drunken Carp):
Carp (2kg weight) should be prepared for baking; put salt on/into the carp; make several cuts from head to the tail and in those cuts put sliced garlic. Carp in covered dish put in heated oven. Bake 40 min and every 5-10 min pour it over with “sauce” prepared from white wine, tiny sliced garlic, sliced leaves of parsley and celery and 7-8 spoons of vegetable oil. Serve with lemon and potato salad.

8. At the end of supper, all the rests of the food should be left on the table and covered with a tablecloth, until Christmas morning. The belief is that during the night the spirits of the dead come to eat the food left for them.

9. Also day before Christmas is the day for prepare so called ”pečenica which is piglet roasted over the fire of oak tree logs
Of course it will be eaten tomorrow on Christmas.

10. In the morning of January 7th, Christmas, the first person that enters the home is called “položajnik”. This person should stoke the fire in the fireplace and say the following:

“How many sparks, that much sheep. How many sparks, that much money. How many sparks, that much health!”

The Položajnik is then offered the “zito” (boiled wheat Christmas speciality) and red (black)wine. The guest makes the sign of the cross and eats a bit of the “zito” and drinks some wine.

11. For breakfast the habit is to prepare “cicvara” (a dish made of flour, eggs, butter and cheese). On the table are served also small dry cakes, dry figs and the famous plum brandy called “Sljivovica”. Usually the “Sljivovica” served is home made and at least ten years old! Another custom is to prepare a bowl in which young wheat is planted to grow during the forth coming year. The meaning is should be fertile and that the family will have luck.

All persons gather around the table, family and guests, while the father lights the candle. That moment marks the start of “mirbozenje” (peace and reconciliation). Participants than kiss one another at Christmas time while saying: “Mir Bozji” (peace of God). If there were any disagreement, all are forgotten.

During the entire Christmas day a custom is to replace a classic: “Hello” or: “Good day” with: “Hristos se rodi” (Christ is born!) and as greeting in reply: “Vaistinu se rodi” (“Really born!” or “He has been born indeed!”). Nowadays it’s a habit to call relatives or friends by phone and instead of saying a classic “good morning”, we say: “Hristos se rodi!”
It might sound silly to you but we are actually doing this.

12. On Christmas day, lunch gets underway earlier than usual and lasts longer. The menu is very rich. In contrast to Christmas Eve that relates to All Souls’ Day, Christmas relates to the cult of agriculture.
Nowadays, in the cities, before lunch the family throws the straw under the table (man’s relation to the earth).

Traditionally essential part of the Christmas dinner is a type of flat, round Christmas bread called “česnica”.

It is prepared using stalk of the last wheat harvest filling them with kernels of different grains. However in part where I live it’s more like some kind of pie with dry fig, raisins, honey and walnuts.
Anyhow a solid silver coin along with wood and a bean for health and good luck is placed into česnica. family members break the česnica and the one who finds the coin in it is considered to be most fortunate that year; however, the head of the family has to buy the coin so it stays in the house. Sometimes, there are other things put in česnica, like piece of badnjak (that’s what I found) ,– good luck , hazelnut – health, plum – traveling, etc

Families in the cities almost always order their Christmas pork roast from bakers who exclusively use oak for the roasting fire.

Symbolicly the Christmas day meal marks the end of the period of abstinence as well as a ritual in which the food and the pork is considered a sacrifice made to god. All the members of the family must taste the roast pork and cesnica.

13. In Serbia Christmas is celebrating three days and during those days we are saying traditional Christmas greeting “Hristos se rodi”; “Vaistinu se rodi”.
It’s also great custom which gathers whole family because tradition says that you should spend Christmas Holidays in your home with your family.

I hope this TT was interesting to you (in spite its length)