Slava

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For other uses, see Slava (disambiguation).
Slava
PA020045.JPG
Church prepared for the celebration of a Slava, Trebinje, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Observed by Serbian Orthodox Christians (Serbs, Montenegrins, Macedonians )
Type Christian, cultural
Significance Veneration of the family's patron saint
Observances church services, family and other social gatherings,

The Slava (lit. "celebration"; Serbian Cyrillic: Слава), also called Krsna Slava (Крсна Слава, "christened Slava") and Krsno ime (Крсно име, "christened name"), is a Serbian Orthodox Church tradition of the ritual glorification of one's family's patron saint among Serbs, but also Serbs in Montenegro and Macedonia. The family celebrates the Slava annually on the saint's feast day. Unlike other major Orthodox Christian nations, i.e. Greeks, Russians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Georgians etc., Serbs do not celebrate individual name days, as when a person named after a saint would celebrate that saint's feast day, but instead they do it collectively as the name day of a certain family and/or clan.

Serbs usually regard the Slava as their most significant and most solemn feast day.[1][2] The tradition of the Slava is also very well preserved among the Serbian diaspora on all 5 continents.[3]

History[edit]

The Slava (literally translated as glorification) is a Saint Patron Day at which each Serbian family venerates the certain Saint and their ancestors as well as the day when they got baptized as the Orthodox Christians. Slava has some elements of pre-Christian Slavic traditions that have been incorporated into Orthodox Christianity with the blessing of the Orthodox Church. As is the case with many nations, the Serbs have also Christianized some elements of the earlier Slavic feast days and traditions:

The custom in its modern state was created with the exposure to Christianity during the reign of Byzantine emperor Heraclius (610-641) or later at the time of the final Christianization of the Serbs during the rule of Basil I (867-886) by Thessaloniki missionaries Cyril and Methodius.[5]

Slavski kolač, literally 'Slava cake', is a loaf of bread that has an important role in the celebration of the Slava.

According to Constantine's DAI one of the Serbian tribes was nicknamed „Pagani“ (what Constantine himself translates as “unbaptized in the Slavic tongue” (DAI, 29, 81) indicating that the others were already Christianized. When the time came for Serbs to accept Christianity from Constantinople, they were not baptized collectively, as was the case with Russians or Bulgarians, but the baptism was done during the process that took place village by village or clan by clan and, depending on the Saint-day they were Christened, each family acquired a particular Saint patron.

The Slava was canonically shaped by the Archbishop Saint Sava of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

"Gde je Slava, tu je Srbin"
("Where there is a Slava, there is a Serb")
-Serbian saying[5]

Heritage[edit]

Unlike most customs that are common for an entire people, each family separately celebrates its own saint; of course, there is quite a bit of overlap. It is inherited from the head of the household—normally the father—to sons. Daughters inherit the Slava only if they stay in the home, while married women normally celebrate their husbands' saint.

Slava prepared for a Serbian family feast in honour of their Patron Saint, John the Baptist.

Each household has one or two celebrations per year (depending on the saint in question, for some have two days devoted to them). Yet, only one is the main day of the patron saint feast (and not necessarily the same of the two days for all families); the second celebration is referred to as "Little Slava" or Preslava.

Some families may also celebrate yet another saint to a lesser extent (for example, when the wife is the only descendant of her kinship so the tradition of her Slava would otherwise be lost).

Should a particular household move far away, with the father's blessing, a son starts celebrating the Slava in his own home; in some cases, however, for as long as a family patriarch is alive, his sons celebrate under his roof.[verification needed]

Celebration[edit]

Traditional foods that are prepared for the feast are: "Slavski kolač" (славски колач) and "koljivo" (кољиво). "Slavski kolač" literally means "the Slava cake", although it is actually more similar to bread.

Koljivo

The top of the kolač is adorned with the sign of the Cross, the "Dove of Peace", and other symbols that relate to the family. "Koljivo" (also called "Žito") is made of boiled wheat. It can be prepared in a variety of ways but most usually includes walnuts, nutmegs and/or cloves, and honey.

The wheat is a symbol of the Resurrection of Christ and deceased family members. Depending on whether the celebration falls in a period of fasting, the rest of the feast consists of animal-free (posni) meals or not (mrsni); thus, colloquially, Slavas can be referred to as mrsne or posne.

On the day of the Slava, the family attends church services and partakes in Holy Communion. Following the service, the parish priest is received in the family's home or the family brings the slavski kolač to the church. The parish priest performs a small service which entails venerating the Saint's memory, blessing the slavski kolač and koljivo, as well as lighting the "Slava candle". Though not necessary, it is common for the priest to bless the house and perform a small memorial service for dead relatives.

The most common feast days are St. Nicholas (falling on December 19), St. George (May 6, see Đurđevdan), St. John the Baptist (January 20), Saint Demetrius (November 8), St. Michael (November 21) and Saint Sava (January 27). Given dates are by official Gregorian calendar. Serbian Orthodox Church uses Julian calendar that is late 13 days. For example, St. Nicholas date is December 6, but by Julian calendar this date is 13 days later, when by Gregorian calendar is December 19.

Many Serbian communities (villages, cities, organizations, political parties, institutions, companies, professions) also celebrate their patron saint. For example, the city of Belgrade celebrates the Ascension as its Slava.

Slava today[edit]

The increased effective geographic mobility brought about by the post World War 2 urbanization of a previously highly agrarian society, combined with the brutal suppression of Serbian Orthodox traditions under the Communist rule, has made some aspects of the custom more relaxed. In particular, in the second half of the 20th century it became common to see traditional patriarchal families separated by great distances, so by necessity the Slava came to occasionally be celebrated at more than one place by members of the same family.

While the Slava kept something of a grassroots underground popularity during the Communist period, the post-Communist revival of Christian traditions has brought it a great resurgence. It is recognized as a distinctly (if not quite exclusively) Serbian custom, and today it is quite common for nonobservant Christians or even atheists to celebrate it in one form or another as a hereditary family holiday and a mark of ethnocultural identification.

"Slava" is also helpful in demographic investigations as genealogical indicator of relationships between families and branches of the same family.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Celia Jaes Falicov (1991). Family Transitions: Continuity and Change Over the Life Cycle. New York City: Guilford Press. p. 219. ISBN 978-0-89862-484-7. 
  2. ^ http://www.allwords.com/word-slava.html
  3. ^ Michael B. Petrovich; Joel Halpern (1980). "Serbs". In Stephan Thernstrom, Ann Orlov, and Oscar Handlin. Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (2nd ed.). Harvard University Press. p. 925. ISBN 978-0-674-37512-3. 
  4. ^ http://www.bnr.bg/RadioBulgaria/Emission_English/Theme_Folklore/Material/st_elijah_folk.htm
  5. ^ a b Serbian Orthodox fundamentals

External links[edit]