People and customs


Noćni život u NišuResidents of southeast Serbia are very happy and hospitable people who spend much of their time out, especially in restaurants, pubs and cafes.
They usually toast with homemade brandy, produced in family manufacture. They clink glasses, making sure to watch you in the eye, loudly shouting “Živeli! (Cheers!)”
An important part of Serbian mentality is "paying bills" in the restaurant. The host almost never allows a guest to pay for lunch, dinner or drinks, because it is the custom for the host to bear all the expenses while the guest stays with him.
Some features of Serbian tradition are:

Residents of southeast Serbia are very cheerful people, who spend most of their time in restaurants, pubs and cafes.
It is a usual situation in a restaurant for a total stranger to buy you a drink, especially in the celebration of the birth of a child or business success.

Krsna slava (a kind of patron saint’s day)

is an ancient Serbian Orthodox tradition in which, alongside special rituals and a feast, the Christian saint, the protector of the family, is honoured, his day celebrated in accordance with the church calendar. The slava is a holiday of the ‘little church’ – the basic Christian cell, the family – when through prayer, the household remembers their ancestors who celebrated the same saint. Serbs celebrate their krsna slava with family, friends and festivities – a diverse range of food is prepared and a holiday atmosphere fills the home.
The most common Serbian slava, i.e. the most celebrated saints, are Saint Nicholas, Saint John, Saint Demetrius (Mitrovdan), Saint George (Đurđevdan) and Saint Archangel Michael (Aranđelovdan).


Kissing three times on the cheek

When greeting, the Serbs kiss three times on the cheek as a sign of respect. This custom was inherited from Montenegro Serbs and Russians.


Kolo

“Kolo” is a traditional Serbian dance. It is believed that the area of ​​southeast Serbia, when this kind of dance is concerned, is the most diverse and the most interesting. The proximity of Bulgaria and Macedonia and turbulent historical events left traces in the traditional dance. The Shopi area that stretches from Pirot to Sofia and northeast Macedonia is a unified whole in all aspects, and folk music and dance are no exception. In addition, the influence of other cultures and traditions dates far into the past. The Levant influence from Greece came from Byzantine Empire to Nemanjić’s Serbia and in Prizren and its surroundings influenced the creation of the dance repertoire of nobility, which then transferred to rural areas. The second, newer influence got to Vranjsko Pomoravlje with the Ottomans, and left trace in the style of dance. There is a large number of basic dance patterns (types), various musical accompaniment, a number of instruments, a variety of dance styles, a large number of ceremonial dances related to the annual cycle of customs (“koledari”, “sirovari”, “lazarice”, “kraljive”) and life cycles (marriage). A number of dance and musical types are self-explanatory, because of their names: “Banjski Čačak”, “Svrljiški Čačak”, “Niški Čačak”, Stara Bosara”, Piperana”, Pirotski Čačak”, Šilovački Čačak”, Pčinjski Čačak”... In addition to these, there are also: “Jednostranka”, “Osamputka” (“Osmače”, “Drišlja”), “Četvorka”, “Selsko Oro” (Staroselsko, Novoselsko), “Samačko”, “Trojanac”, “Rumenka” and “Polomka” (in the northern part of this area), “Vlasinka”, “Bugarka” and “Šestorka” (the southern part of the area). In addition to singing, dancing was followed by the pipe, bagpipes or drum, trumpet and accordion orchestra.

Christmas

Christmas Eve is celebrated on January 6th, one day before Orthodox Christmas and is an integral part of Christmas traditions which include cutting the log, making Christmas roast, visiting homes, Christmas Eve, bringing in the log and straw, burning the log and Christmas Eve supper.
To commemorate Christ's birth, Christmas was established in Apostolic times to commemorate the birth of Christ. In order to prepare for Christmas, there is the Chistmas Lent from December 28th to January 6th. At Christmas, instead of the usual greeting, people greet with “Hristos se rodi! (Christ is born!)” and “Vaistinu se rodi! (Truly, he is born!)” The most common customs are: bringing the log, draping homes with straw, baking “česnica” (special bread), roasting pig, “položajnik”. According to belief, sitting around the burning log, people are warmed with love, sincerity and harmony.


Easter

Easter is one of the major Christian holidays. According to belief, that was the time when Christ was resurrected into heaven and sat on the right side of his father. It is the day when Easter Eggs are cracked, when everyone is welcomed by the most joyful greeting: “Hristos Vaskrse! (Christ has risen)”, “Vaistinu Vaskrse! (Truly He has risen!”) This holiday is a symbol of victory over death, and a symbol of victory over the devil. It is the day when Christ, having survived the most serious passion, although he was just, was crucified, died, and after two days in the tomb, resurrected.
Serbs spend this holiday with their families. The most common food on this day is roast pork, because the Turks, during their rule, would break on Easter into homes and would steal roast lamb. This was the case for years, until the Serbs figured out that the Turks do not eat pork. Then they prepared pork, and when the Turks would break into their homes, they would leave empty handed. Of course, there is also “sarma” (stuffed cabbage leaves), and the cake.


White Carnival

Residents of Homolje, Serbs and Vlachs, foster a rich ritual practice dominated by the cult of the dead and the ancestors. The White Carnival Day begins with taking food and light to the cemetery. The most prominent ritual of the spring cycle is burning of the ritual fire. Fire is a symbol of fertility, the link between the world of the living and the dead. The White Carnival fire is lit in the village center, around which people dance. The dance is a way to summon the dead.


Marriage


Biedermeier
When the wedding ceremony is over, the bride throws Biedermeier. The girl who catches it is, according to the belief, next to be married.

Throwing
When the newlyweds after the wedding come to their new house, the bride takes from her mother-in-law a sieve that contains an apple. She throws the apple behind her back, and the sieve onto the roof of the house. If the sieve stays on the roof, the bride will stay in the house.

Apple

When the groom goes for the bride, it is customary for his father-in-law to put an apple on the tallest tree in the courtyard of the bride. The groom cannot take the bride until he shoots the apple on the tree with a rifle.

Prayer with Rosary
Prayer with rosary is one of the oldest ways of prayer, which was particularly cherished by Orthodox monks. Rosaries themselves have a symbolic character. They are usually black in color thus suggesting that we should lead a sober and humble life in constant repentance. Beads are made out of pure sheep wool, which reminds us that we are the sheep of the Good Shepherd, Christ the Lord, who himself, as the Lamb of the Lord, suffered for us and redeemed us from eternal death. Small rosaries usually have 33 knots. There are larger rosaries of 50, 100 or 300 knots. According to an old legend, there was a monk who wanted to make a woolen rosary in order to count his prayers, but the devil would constantly undo the nodes that he would weave. Once an angel appeared to him and taught him to knit a node composed of seven twisted crosses. This is one of the most complicated knots in the world. The devil could not undo this rosary.