Local customs, specific flavors, and cultural and historical details are what one takes home from a trip. We carry with us souvenirs that refresh our memories of a traditionally produced musical instrument, a belief expressed through a figure, a unique custom; we remember a certain region or country for these characteristics, and they are often the reason that we return.
Serbia abounds in customs and traditional stories. We have chosen three for you that are important aspects of culture where they are observed.
The city of Loznica and the region along the Drina River in Western Serbia are famous for an tradition known as lilanje. On the eve of the great St. Peter’s Day on July 12, candles made of young, wild cherry or birch bark are lit on a hazel stick. Lile are lit with large ceremonial fires in places where people gather in squares or at crossroads. Most participants of lilanje are children and young people, because lile also has a fun side, when participants enjoy themselves with folk songs and dances.
In order to preserve the custom of lilanje for future generations, in 2018 the Loznica Tourism Organization, with the support of other organizations, planned the LilaLo festival. Every year it blends the traditional with the modern to presents folk customs in a contemporary way.
The northern province of Vojvodina offers one of the traditional customs: korinđanje. On Christmas Eve, children move in a procession from house to house singing funny and religious songs foreshadowing the arrival of Christmas. Hosts give children apples, walnuts and sweets. This element of gift giving enriches the custom because the gifts themselves are symbolic in their own way: the apple symbolizes health, confections a sweet life, and the walnut represents the ancestors. If you find yourself in this part of Serbia around Christmastime, the children will certainly pull you by the sleeve to sing joyful songs with them.
St. George’s Day prayer
Glorification of saints in Serbia is a custom that many families practice in the form of family slava, or honoring of the patron saint protecting home and family. The custom of family slava is also included on UNESCO’s List.
Prayer on St. George’s Day prayer is a custom followed once a year in the village of Vrtovac on Stara Planina in eastern Serbia. Community members gather on this holiday for a collective village slava. The custom is also known as “Prayer under Midžor”, after the peak of Midžor on Stara Planina (2,169 m). This is known as one of the most cheerful festivals celebrating the power of spring and nature. Through ritual, the power of nature is transmitted to people, livestock, and crops.
We suggest you find some time for local customs on every trip because the memories you make will be some of your most cherished souvenirs.