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Slavski kolac

Slavski kolač, literally 'slava cake', is a loaf of bread that has an important role in the celebration of the slava.

The slava (Serbian Cyrillic: слава), also called krsna slava (крсна слава) and krsno ime (крсно име, literally "christened name" in Serbian), is the Serbian Orthodox tradition of the ritual celebration, veneration, and observance of a family's own patron saint. The family celebrates the slava annually on the patron saint's feast day. The slava is a tradition of the Serbs, who are an autochthonous people in the modern states of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (mostly in Republika Srpska), and Montenegro, as well as in the former Military Frontier (parts of modern states of Croatia, Hungary, and Romania). The Serbs regard the slava as one of their most significant feast days.[1] The tradition of the slava is also preserved among the Serbian diaspora.[2]

The slava is also recorded among some non-Serbs in the Republic of Macedonia,[3] Bulgaria,[4] and Croatia, as well as among the Gorani, a Muslim Slavic ethnic group.



Church prepared for the celebration of a slava, Trebinje, Republic of Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It is believed that the South Slavs adopted the tradition at the time of their Christianization, according to Constantine Porphyrogenitus (De Administrando Imperio - DAI, 29, 54) around 6th century during the reign of emperor Heraclius (610-641) or even earlier. The fact that at that time some Serbian tribes were named „Pagani“ (what Constanting himself translates as “unbaptized in the Slavic tongue” (DAI, 29, 81) indicates that the others were already Christianised. 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; the last pagan temple in Serbia, in Svetovid, was destroyed by Tsar Dušan in the 14th century. 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.

The slava was canonically introduced for the first time by Archbishop Saint Sava of the Serbian Orthodox Church.


Sveti Jovan

Slava prepared for a Serbian family feast in honour of their Patron Saint, John the Baptist.

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.


Koljivo from wheat


The occasion brings all of the family together, and a feast is normally prepared, including traditional foods: "slavski kolač" (славски колач) and "koljivo" (кољиво). "Slavski kolač" literally means "the slava cake", although it is actually more similar to bread. Depending on whether the celebration falls during fasting, slavski kolač is made with or without eggs, butter and milk.

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) and St. Michael (November 21).

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.


  1. Celia Jaes Falicov (1991). Family Transitions: Continuity and Change Over the Life Cycle. New York City: Guilford Press. p. 219. ISBN 9780898624847. 
  2. 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 9780674375123. 
  3. Jovan F. Trifunovski. "Породична слава и сличне славе у охридско-струшкој области" (in Serbian). Bulletin of the Ethnografical Institute SASA, vol XLV. 
  4. Petko Hristov. "За пропагандната употреба на празника" (in Bulgarian). Literature Network. 

External links

bs:Slavaja:スラヴァ (セルビア正教会の習慣) ru:Слава (праздник) sr:Слава sv:Slava

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