Sunday, 20 August 2017

Serbia Marks End of Month-Long, Food-Filled Holiday Season

Text by By Igor Jovanovic for Southeast European Times*   
A large number of holidays and patron-saint days are marked in Serbia between December 19th and January 20th. Celebration of saint days, or slavas, is an echo of the Serbs' polytheistic tradition, when every family had a patron.Now families gather to honour the Christian saints who took over as family patrons. It is a custom in Serbia to spend three days celebrating a patron saint, during which relatives and friends visit the host family.

The feasting period in Serbia begins on December 19th with St Nikola's Day. Orthodox Christians consider St Nikola a miracle worker and a protector of many, including travellers, sailors and fishermen.

Followed by the New Year celebrations and Orthodox Christmas, the religious observances finally wrap up on January 20th with the day of St Jovan (John), who baptised Jesus Christ in the Jordan River.

Adherents observing the 40-day Advent fast, during which they must abstain from meat, have a Christmas meal replete with dishes that have no meat, eggs or milk in them. Tradition allows the faithful to eat only fish and vegetables during the fast.

Meals usually start with the traditional Serbian rakija, an extremely strong spirit made from fermented fruit. Rakija made from plums or pears is a particular favourite in Serbia.

Serbian traditional cuisine's main imprint remains Ottoman, but it also bears Greek, Hungarian and Austrian influences.

Apart from the fish, a bean dish called prebranac is eaten at patron-saint celebrations. The cook soaks beans in water overnight and cooks them the next day. He or she fries them in oil with onions and ground paprika, then oven-bakes the entire contents in a deep earthenware pot.

After the fast, the Serbs enjoy meat dishes. The main course is either roast pork or lamb. The hors d'oeuvre is often pihtije, a dish made from veal and a pig's ear, tail and two of its legs. They are cooked with bay leaf, garlic, carrots, salt, and pepper. The cook adds gelatin to the water, so the dish ends up looking like jelly with the meat semi-hidden inside.

Russian salad is a popular side dish. It contains peas, finely chopped boiled carrots and potatoes, gherkins and mayonnaise.

Serbian cuisine offers numerous sweets, including small cookies called vanilice, which are vanilla sandwich-shaped cookies that melt in one's mouth, with jam in the middle and powdered sugar on the surface.



Curiosity Chest

The Balkans' Street-Renaming Obsession

The battle over renaming streets in Eastern Europe since the fall of communism reflects their importance as symbols of identity, history and power. Full Story

Useful Reads

The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History (2010) | By Jason Vuic

No other car, save perhaps the equally admired Skoda, has inspired as many jokes as the Yugo, the product of “cutting edge” technology from the former Yugoslavia which was ranked by US auto journalists as only the eighth most deadly car on the road. Full Story


Serbia Surprises with Choice of Little-Known Singer for Eurovision

12 March 2009 | A little-known Serbian singer and composer, Marko Kon, has surprised many by emerging as his country's representative at the 54th Eurovision in Moscow.
Full Story