Happy (Julian) New Year


The fireworks above St. Sava’s Cathedral in Belgrade last night signify the Srpska Nova Godina or Serbian New Year. The Serbian Orthodox Church, along with some other Orthodox churches, traditionally celebrates the Julian Calendar New Year, which is 13 days behind the Gregorian Calendar this century. Hence, on January 13th, the Serbs celebrate another New Year with a mass, firework show, and concerts and parties around the city.

I went down to St. Sava’s last night to catch all the fun. I’ll be posting videos later today. I think any excuse to party is cool, and acknowledging Julius Caesar’s (or his team of astronomers) calendar from 45 BC is very interesting. I had a sense of solidarity with the Serbians in attendance. It was a contrast of the holy service occurring inside and the drinking and fireworks occurring outside.

I was excited to use my new iPhone last night to capture video of the event and I will post later today when I get a faster video connection.


Christmas Eve Service: A Serbian Orthodox Tradition


St. Sava’s Cathedral, originally uploaded by bill kralovec.

Last night we went to Saint Sava’s Cathedral here in Belgrade for the burning of the badjnak and the Christmas Eve Service. As you can see from the photos, it was a beautiful and culturally enriching night for my family.

Each of the kids had a “badnjak” which is like a yule log. The word badnjak may be derived from the verb, bdeti, which means to stay awake or keep the vigil. The tradition stems from pagan times and the man of the house (domaćin) or sons on Christmas morning went into the woods and cut down a young Oak tree. The yule log is kind of like a ceremonial sacrifice to bring health and happiness to the family for the coming year. The log was burnt over the family hearth. Today, an assembly of twigs with Oak leaves, corn, pine sprigs, and straw is tied together with a red ribbon and sold in markets and street corners around Belgrade. Every church has a bonfire on its grounds where people can come and throw their badnjaks in the flames.

There were hundreds of people there and outside the church a mini-market was set up selling religious and holiday crafts and mulled wine. We went inside the massive cathedral to watch a bit of the service and light candles in memory of lost family members. The service, shown below, had a lot of priests singing and waving incense. There were also lines of people waiting to kiss various icons.

Afterwards we went to have some Lebanese appitizers at the Byblos Restaurant and the kids played in the park.

Orthodox Cathedral – Timisoara, Romania


We drove two hours north east of Belgrade Sunday to the beautiful city of Timisoara, Romania. We went for lunch, some shopping, and some sight seeing. The first place we stopped was the magnificent Romanian Orthodox Cathedral near Opera Square in the center of the city. The Sunday morning service had just ended and we were given an unofficial tour of place by our friend, Vesna. It was the first time I had someone explain the intracies of the Orthodox Church. In the picture above is the front altar, which in the Orthodox Church is covered by a wall and doors decorated with icons, called an iconostasis. People were lining up to kiss a golden icon in the middle and they were also lining up to say a prayer over the relics of St. Joseph of Banat. A piece of cloth from his robes was in a box on a small side altar.

I explained the architecture to the boys. There are many domes and arches and the color schemes of gold, burgandy, and dark green, which are typical orthdox art style. There were paintings all over the cathedral walls. We sat for awhile on the chairs on the side and enjoyed the warmth of the church. I appreciated the opportunity to teach the kids about another religious practice.

I highly recommend visiting Timsoara. They have really good shopping – better than Serbia, I guess because they are in the EU and the prices were reasonable. We also had a nice dinner at an Italian Restaurant.