Srpska Slava


If the cake is cut at home, the host accompanied with a family member, after they have returned from church where they attended Matins of Divine Liturgy, waits for the priest to come, who is going to come, had he been invited, in the scheduled time to cut the slava cake.

The table with the slava candle should be placed in front of the icon, as previously advised; on it place the slava candle a little in the front, the slava cake on the left, the slava wheat (koljivo) on the right, a glass, or, even better, a small cup of red wine in the middle, and a knife, frankincense and the piece of paper with all the family members’ names so the priest can mention them while praying next to the cake. The coals should be ready to be put in the censer. The oil lamp in front of the icon has been lighted since the early morning.

While entering his parish’s home the priest greets him with evangelical words: ‘May peace be in this home and those who live in it!'[11] The host replies: ‘Amen. May god allow it!’

After the households gather and the host lights the slava candle, the priest is given coals for the censer, and he puts the frankincense on it and censes the home first. The true meaning of censing is beautifully written in a line of a church psalm:

‘May my prayer be set before you like incense’ (Psalm 141: 2)

Then the priest read a prayer to bless the wheat (koljivo), slava cake and wine.

Then he raises the slava cake in front of the icon as our sacrifice in the glory of God and the saint we celebrate; then he cuts the cake and pour wine over it making the sign of the cross and turns it around with the host singing the three songs:

I ‘Svjati mučenici…’
II ‘Slava tebje, Hriste Bože…’
III ‘Isaije likuj…’

The whole church ceremony is much more glorious and closer to soul when the whole family sings the songs with the priest, therefore they should be learnt by heart (the whole text of the songs is given in front, on page 24 in Church Slavonic, and on page 48 in Serbian).

When all three songs are sung, the priest breaks the cake with the host, or whoever is replacing him, and the whole family come and kiss the cake. Afterwards the priest addresses us with the words: ‘Hristos posredje nas’, meaning ‘Christ is among us!’, and we reply with: ‘I jest i budet!’, meaning ‘He is and He will be!’

The households should be taught to reply to the priest in that manner. After that the priest says a prayer in which he mentions the names of all households which are written in a special piece of paper lying on the table.

At the end of the ceremony everyone present approaches to venerate the cross by kissing it, just like when the blessing of water takes place. Then they congratulate each others. (See: The act of cutting the cake, page 47).

Everything needed for the liturgy should be prepared before the holy rite starts, and when it does start the whole family should be together, standing still and piously and offering their prayers together with the priest warmly and sincerely. For, the priest does not come as a clerk to perform the ritual because of other people – he comes because of the prayer and the spiritual needs of the family. That is why the people present at this homely liturgy should act as if they were in a temple of the Lord and carefully watch the ceremony and take part in it, praying and making the sign of the cross whenever the name of God is mentioned. On that occasion we pray to God for the health and the progress for us and for all our living, and in the prayer of the wheat blessing we also think of the peace of souls of our deceased relatives, and therefore – both because of our well-being and out of love an respect for our dear departed – on this occasion we should pray to God piously, honestly and from the bottom of our heart.

Wherever the Serbs go, they take pride in their slava and try to celebrate it as appropriately as possible in freedom and slavery, in their country and a foreign land. These homely liturgies and customs that go with them develop both religious and national feelings in our children. Children rejoice in homely festivities, and it our duty as parents to give our children as much joy as we can, so they can remember us and their childhood with as much love and warm memories as they can.

It is not necessary to emphasise that everything has to be clean and in order; that goes for home and the family. The clothes on the host and his family does not need to be new or adorned, but it has to be clean.

But above all, and it must be especially accentuated, let their hearts be pure, let their conscience be pure and clear, let they on that day help their poor kinsmen even if it be the smallest gift or contribution: be it food, money, clothes or footwear. If possible, let their children be the ones to deliver that help, to learn their Christian duty since the earliest days. The joy of those receiving the help will add to their joy, and they will celebrate their slava more merrily, joyfully and satisfyingly; the gratitude of the helped ones will echo in the ear of the God Almighty, who will bless the home of celebrants and give multiple compensation for everything they did for their kinsmen in the glory of God and memory of their saint.

Only celebrating the christened name in that manner will please both God and the saint, so let us celebrate it in that manner, brothers and sisters!

If you are able to do it for the slava, if the God has given you the opportunity, you may make lunch to offer your relatives, friends, comrades and neighbours if you wish so. But that lunch and feast should be in the accordance with the feast of that day, and they should not turn into travesty which no one takes pride in and desecrates the slava tainting our name!

During lunch, if it includes guests, they usually toast to one another, even though it is not practiced everywhere. But where they do, the host should have an eye on temperance, bearing in mind this is no ordinary feast but the Serbian slava – a day to commemorate a saint. The people have set a limit here with a saying: ‘Drinking often for another man’s health makes you lose your own!’

Know this: the slava is not about eating and drinking, it is about a good Christian life, a godly thought, about the memory of and looking up to the saint’s life and doing deeds, so let us in view of that do everything we can!

So, if you do not have possibility to prepare feast and lunch for your slava, do not get into debt for it, nor deny your various needs for the love of guests’ praise; – instead celebrate the slava, celebrate the memory of your saint only with performing the religious ritual, which essentially is the true celebrating of the slava – and you do it with a prayer and a pure heart.

Festivity is deeply rooted in the nation of St Sava. No other people celebrate saints of God as much as the Serbian people do. And the deepest sense of the feast lies within the holiest ideal of our people – the ideal of a holy man, which is: a man not attached to earthly Kingdom, a man clean of injustice and vanity, a man filled with the love for God and fellow human beings, a man fearless in the face of death; in one word, a spiritual man!

When such holy people start being considered a role model to look up to, then the humanity will live in happiness. Hence our nation has always been a bearer of an advanced and saving ideal – the evangelic ideal, which will the whole humanity, now all torn apart, finally have to accept and adopt if it wants to be saved.