Church prepared for the celebration of a slava, Trebinje, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
|Observed by||Serbian Orthodox Christians (Serbs, Montenegrins)|
|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 Montenegrins and Macedonians. The family celebrates the Slava annually on the saint's feast day.
The Slava is most associated with the Serbs and Montenegrins, who consider it a national tradition. They are most conscientious in its observation and regard the Slava as their most significant feast days. The tradition of the slava is also preserved among the Serbian diaspora. The Slava is also recorded among other ethnic groups; like the Gorani in Kosovo, a Muslim Slavic ethnic group, who "picked up" this tradition from the neighbouring Serbs, or preserved it back from the times when they were still Christian.
The Slava (glorification) is a result of the Serbs' Christianization transforming the Indo-European custom of communal feasts into a Christian custom. Many elements of Serbian pre-Christian culture have lived on in Christianity. The Serbs were a polytheistic Slavic tribe that believed in several gods, such as Svetovid (God of war, fertility and abundance) and Dažbog (Sun god, a culture hero and a source of wealth and power). Each household had a protective god (protector of the family) that it venerated, a custom that was assimilated into Serbian Christianity. Christian saints replaced the Slavic deities, and the ritual itself survives as a national custom of the Serbs.
- Svetovid > Saint Vitus > Vidovdan
- Perun > Saint Elijah > Ilindan
- Veles > Saint Nicholas > Nikoljdan
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The custom in its modern state was created with the exposure to Christianity during the reign of 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 Byzantine missionaries of Constantinople Cyril and Methodius.
According to Constantine's DAI a Serbian tribe named „Pagani“ (what Constantine himself translates as “unbaptized in the Slavic tongue” (DAI, 29, 81) indicates that the others were already Christianized. Some believe that the day of the mass baptism itself was taken as the saint protector, others claim that each clan adopted its collective protector, while others still claim that the Slava is simply the saint which replaced a pre-existing pagan god-protector. At times, a new Slava would be adopted, should a saint be believed to have interceded for some sort of deliverance (i.e., from illness or affliction). The new saint would be adopted in lieu of the old, whose day would still be marked by a lighting of a candle, with much less fanfare.
Some also believe the Slava to be a remnant from Slavic paganism which had a myriad of gods before adopting Christianity. The Serbs in particular held strongly onto their old Slavic religion That the Slava often varies according to geographical regions is claimed as evidence of the above. But even this notion need not contradict the traditional explanation that the Slava is celebrated on the day of christening of the first-baptized ancestor, and in fact, it may very well underscore it.
"Gde je Slava, tu je Srbin"
("Where there is a Slava, there is a Serb")
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.
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 permission, a son might celebrate the Slava in his own home; usually, however, for as long as a family patriarch is alive, his sons should celebrate under his roof.[verification needed]
Actually, the sons should celebrate slava with their father only if they live together. If they have separate households, and they do not live together, then they should celebrate separately. Of course, if the father is alive, the son is asking for his permission. The son will then celebrate for the last time with the father, and he will get a half of the slavski kolac to start celebrating in his own home. There is some confusion about this. Not long ago, all sons lived in the same household with the father so, it was obvious that they will celebrate together. But, as Serbian society started changing, a lot of members of the family moved to cities and started living separately. Today, there are no more large families like before, father with sons and grandsons in one home.
Traditional foods that are prepared on feasts are: "Slavski kolač" (славски колач) and "koljivo" (кољиво). "Slavski kolač" literally means "the Slava cake", although it is actually more similar to bread.
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. He 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 
The increased effective geographic mobility brought about by the post World War 2 urbanization of a previously highly agrarian society, combined with the deterioration of religious traditions under 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Jovan F. Trifunovski. "Породична слава и сличне славе у охридско-струшкој области" (in Serbian). Bulletin of the Ethnografical Institute SASA, vol XLV.
- Serbian Orthodox fundamentals
|Look up slava in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Slava|
- Srpska slava ili krsno ime - a list of saints, descriptions of customs (Serbian)
- Mrsni post, Zoran Majdin, Vreme 827, 9 November 2006. (Serbian)
- Serb families honour their saints with Slava celebrations BBC, 2 March 2013.