2.3. SLAVA OF OLD
Celebrating the krsno ime (literally “christened name” in Serbian) was one of the most important ways our fathers manifested their Orthodox faith. No matter how hard times, they would honour and celebrate the commemoration of their saints.
The host would take care and prepare throughout the year to celebrate the christened name. And on the day before the slava day he would invite all his friends, except those that celebrate the same christened name. (The slava or the christened name can also be called holy or holiday). When guests come in the celebrants’ home they usually say this:
‘Greetings and merry holy!’
‘Let you celebrate if for many years in health and happiness!’ or
‘God help you and happy slava!’.
Friends from another villages (those who live far away) should have come to the slava uninvited.However, it should be noted that the houses of celebrants were more than hospitable homes ready to serve relatives and friends on that day – they became the homes of prayer, they turned into churches of God, where the host with his family would offer prayers of thanks-giving to God and to their holy representative for the gifts they have received so far, for the Grace of God pouring abundantly on them, as well offering a plead that the blessing of the All-mighty God, health, happiness and every joy of life and work continue to accompany them.
Our elders strengthened their faith next to the lighted slava candle and prepared oil lamp in front of the saint’s icon, next to the ‘slavski kolac’ (the slava cake) and koljivo (wheat), surrounded with the sweet-smelling frankincense.
Looking up to the patron saint of their home – the saint whom they venerated – our elders followed his example, doing good deeds.
Even before the feast day their home was open to passengers and unexpected guests, and they helped the poor and unlucky ones according to their abilities. One celebrated as one could, but not even the poorest would miss to celebrate their slava – invoking on that day the name of their holy protector.
In the time of the slavery which lasted for several centuries, the days of the slava were the days of the rebirth, which brought new strength and encouragement. The Serbian people draw strength from the celebration of the slava to endure all the suffering upon it and to welcome the day of freedom. Generations died not seeing the dawn of freedom, and in their dying moment they left a testament for the young ones: to love, protect and fortify their Serbian Orthodox faith, to honour its relics, to celebrate the christened name – their slava – for only faith can reinforce the will for living and to keep their nationality – the name of the Serbs.
Up to this day many commemorate their saint exactly the same as their forefathers did. They do not forget the protector of their home, nor did they ever. They celebrate him according to their abilities, showing they are the true sons of their faith and the Serbian church, and worthy successors of their glorious predecessors.
But there are those that do not wish to celebrate the slava and use newspapers to announce it to the whole world (often drawing attention to non-existing reasons, or reasons which are indeed no reasons). It is the best indicator of how quickly one forgets and easily misses one’s holiest obligations, forgetting and not respecting their faith, the same faith for which, not so long ago, their elders shed their blood and willingly gave their lives.
The Prince of Kosovo did not forget to celebrate his slava, not even on the battlefield on the battle’s eve. And for centuries after Kosovo, Serbian soldiers used to celebrate their slavas in the dump trenches, or in the middle of a cruel battle. In the deadly blast of war, under explosions of bombs and behind the barb wires we have always bore in mind our slava. – The day we have never overlooked. And when we were not able to celebrate our slava the way we used to – the way we inherited it from our elders – we would at least light a candle, which we carried around for a long time keeping it as a relic, and sometimes we did not even have the candle, but we have never stopped thinking about what is most important: to lift our warm prayers to God and our saint that they keep us, that God delivers us from evil, so we can go back to our homes in the arms of our loved and dear ones. Can we not celebrate our slava now, when those wishes we made or the wishes our parents made came true? Is it not then the ultimate ingratitude towards God, ingratitude and negligence towards the testament of our predecessors?And we forget the old saying: ‘Ingratitude is sometimes like a sword’s blade, it can cut the hand of the one who made it!’