Srpska Slava


Our ancestors accepted Christianity in the ninth century and instead of the former idolatry faith they accepted the faith in the One God. Enlightened by Christian preaching, having rejected the offering of a sacrifice to idols, they prayed to the Lord for health, happiness and progress, both of their home and their own. Even though they used to pray every day, our ancestors had one day in the year when they would praise God for all the good he had bestowed on them. On that day they commemorated the Christian saint they especially respected as their Patron Saint, whose life they looked up at as an example to be followed. They addressed that Saint to be their representative and the interpreter of their prayers before the Lord.

Our elders would choose the Most-holy Theotokos, or a Christian saint on whose feast day they were baptized, i.e. when they took Christianity as their Patron Saint or representative in the eyes of the Lord (they also celebrated and commemorated the saint on the day of the saint’s birth or bodily death, or on the day of the transfer of the holy relics).

Thus enlightened with the Christian word a man has realized that the world-ruling God is not to be feared nor prayed in fear if one lives by the commands He has given to us. Not out of fear but out of love one talks to God and celebrates the saint, wishing to become worthy of all the gifts he receives by the Mercy of God by following the graceful and God-pleasing life the saint had led.

The tradition of sacrifice offers, the leftover of the old ways, was not quickly or easily rooted out of all the newly-christened. Missionary activities of the Greek and theLatinChurcheshave only achieved so much among the peoples arriving on the Balkans. They did not succeed to fully Christianise the pagan Slavs. The only way for the Slavs to truly and fully accept the Christianity had to be carefully planned. Even though they had accepted the Christianity, many of them were still offering a sacrifice to the protector of their home and family – a Christian saint – just like they did before, in the days of paganism. (Cattle, chosen to be offered as a sacrifice to a saint, were prodded to a churchyard, where they were slain, and the meat was served on a feast. Many held on to this tradition for a long time).

It was only the St Sava movement, deeply Christian and folk at the same time, that played the crucial role in the final Christianization of the Serbs. St Sava and his disciples and missionaries from the Serbian people determinately begin the process of the evangelical enlightenment of the Serbs. It is the final and the most decisive step to the Christianization of the Serbian people.

The missionary work of the St Sava’s church, active on all fields of the nation’s life, was first manifested through the fight against the remains of the paganism among people.

This also encompassed the celebration of the Christened name – Slava. The previous sacrifice offerings and organized feasts near churches were strictly forbidden. The purpose of these new regulations was to exterminate all pagan elements from the tradition. It was regulated that churches can be used to venerate saints only in a way fitting for a Christian; that is, various fruits of earth can be brought to be blessed, but not to be used as a sacrifice or for a feast.

In that way St Sava’s church has a crucial role in making of krsna slava as it is today. Ergo the beginning and development of a modern Serbian krsna slava must be observed with the big picture of St Sava movement in mind.

The Savian Serbian church has managed to create a modern krsna slava as an exclusively Serbian Orthodox religious and people’s celebration.

Therefore, the creators of slava as we know it today are St Sava and his direct disciples. Hence the fact that only the Serbs, who were continually under the vital influence of the Savian church, have krsna slava today. So, the slava is a form of a missionary activity of the Savian church, a form of her struggle against idolatry and for a complete evangelization of the Serbian people in the medievalSerbia. [2]

Well taught by his first archbishop and his followers, having accepted the manner in which to venerate the christened name that he arranged, the Serbian people have celebrated their feast days in that manner for centuries, just like they should continue to do today.

It is mentioned that the celebration of the slava in its original form (unlike the modern slava of the Serbs) was practiced not only among the Serbs, but also among other Orthodox peoples. But during the course of time these peoples have replaced the celebration of the Christened name with veneration of the day of birth of a prominent family member, or a saint whose name they have. The slava is the origin of birthday and name day (some Bulgarians, Romanians and Arbanasi also celebrate the slava, though not in a way the Serbs do). The Serbs, but not only the Orthodox Serbs, were the only people who have always celebrated the slava, no matter where they were. The slava is also celebrated by the Catholic Serbs (in Boka,Konavli,Herzegovina,Dalmatia,Slovenia), and even by the Roman Catholic families whose ancestors were Serbian. Hence the Serbian saying: ‘Where there is a Slava, there is a Serb’.