Fairy-tale Christmas and New Year’s experiences

New Year and Christmas are holidays that bring a time of joy, happiness, gift-giving -— and also short trips. Serbia welcomes you by celebrating Christmas with its Orthodox and Catholic customs, in a traditional or contemporary manner. Two completely different places to visit in Serbia are the city of Novi Sad in the north and the village of Sirogojno in Western Serbia. 

Novi Sad traditionally dives into the holiday spirit in early December when the city’s central streets are transformed into fairy-tale decorated landscapes. The Novi Sad Zimzolend Christmas fair, from 25 November to 26 December, adds decoration to the main town square. Novi Sad’s holiday magic can be felt at several locations offering different attractions. You will be enchanted by the Christmas Magic winter festival as well as the magical Ice Forest that transforms the late-19th-century Danube Park into a real fairy-tale ice rink. Children’s smiles and trees decorated with light bulbs create a joyful ambiance. Even the oldest city market will be open twice in December for everyone hunting for artisanal products at the Night Bazaar, which is also an excellent prelude to New Year’s gift giving.  

In anticipation of the new year, very popular parties are held daily in Novi Sad and its surroundings, starting with a celebration on 31 December near the Petrovaradin Fortress and until 13 January in indoor spaces throughout the city, with a unique combination of visual and performing arts. 

If you want to learn something about the folk customs of western Serbia, particularly the Zlatibor area, head to the Old Village open-air museum in Sirogojno. The museum pays great attention to the study and preservation of folk customs, architecture, building design of the people of the mountainous Dinaric region.  

In the authentic atmosphere of the Museum, on 6 January, Orthodox Christmas Eve, experience the ritual of cutting and placing the Yule log in the hearth, bringing in straw and setting up the traditional Lenten Christmas Eve dinner, all in accordance with folk customs. Visitors to the museum can participate in the reenactment of customs and learn how people celebrate Christmas Eve.  

The Christmas celebration is preserved even today with minor or major modifications that come with the modern way of life: the symbolic purchase or public burning of Yule logs, where the celebration is moved from the family holiday circle to a common space. This is how believers today gather in front of churches and temples to celebrate Christmas together. One of the most crowded Yule log lightings in Serbia takes place every year in front of the Saint Sava Church in Belgrade. 

Despite the harsh winter, the New Year period will enrich your experience of Serbia with various secular and spiritual gatherings!  

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