Badnjak: A celebration of faith and tradition in the Balkans

Badnjak, also known as Veseljak, is a traditional celebration that takes place on the evening of January 6th in Serbia and other countries in the Balkans. It marks the beginning of Orthodox Christmas, which is celebrated on January 7th.

The word “badnjak” means “log” in Serbian, and it refers to the large oak logs that are used to light a fire in the hearth of homes and churches during the celebration. The logs are symbolically used to represent the log that the Holy Family used to keep warm while they were in the stable in Bethlehem.

Badnjaks on sale at Kalenić MarketBelgrade – Photo by Nikola Smolenski

On the evening of January 6th, many people gather at the Temple of Saint Sava in Belgrade, one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world, to attend a special service and to receive the blessing of the badnjak. The service is led by the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and it is followed by a procession through the streets of Belgrade, with the Patriarch carrying the badnjak at the head of the procession.

After the procession, the badnjak is placed in the hearth of the temple, and the fire is lit. This represents the coming of the light of Christ into the world and the triumph of good over evil. The fire is left burning throughout the night, and people gather around it to sing and pray.

In homes and churches throughout Serbia and the Balkans, people also celebrate the arrival of the badnjak by lighting fires in their own hearths and preparing traditional Christmas meals. In many families, the celebration includes the slaughtering of a pig and the preparation of a feast that includes roasted pork and other dishes.

The celebration of Badnjak is an important cultural tradition in Serbia and the Balkans, and it is a time for people to come together to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and to honor the traditions of their ancestors. It is a time of joy, family, and community, and it is a reminder of the importance of faith and tradition in the lives of people in the region.

Serbian Orthodox priest places the badnjak on a fire during a Christmas Eve celebration at the Temple of Saint Sava in Belgrade – Photo by Lazar

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s