Portal:Christianity/Selected article/December 2010

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A Badnjak saleswoman at Kalenić Marketplace, Belgrade, Serbia

The badnjak is a log brought into the house and placed on the fire on the evening of Christmas Eve, a central tradition in Serbian Christmas celebrations. The tree from which the badnjak is cut, preferably a young and straight oak, is ceremonially felled early on the morning of the Eve. The felling, preparation, bringing in, and laying on the fire, are surrounded by elaborate rituals, with many regional variations. The burning of the log is accompanied by prayers that the coming year brings food, happiness, love, luck, and riches. It commemorates the fire that—according to folk tradition—the shepherds of Bethlehem built in the cave where Jesus Christ was born, to warm him and his mother throughout the night. Scholars regard the ceremony as inherited from the old Slavic religion. As most Serbs today live in towns and cities, the badnjak is often represented by a cluster of oak twigs with which the home is decorated on Christmas Eve. Since the early 1990s, the Serbian Orthodox Church has, together with local communities, organized public celebrations on the Eve in which the badnjak plays a central role. (more...)