Gde je slava, tu je Srbin !
”Where there is a Slava, there is a Serb!” – Miloš Milojević
The Slava is a Serbian Orthodox Christian festivity, during which each family glorifies it’s patron saint. It is celebrated annually on the saint’s feast day: family members and friends gather at the patriarch’s house, bringing Serbian traditional food, singing stare pesme (old traditional songs) and drinking wine and rakija. The most common Slavas are celebrated on St. Nicholas (19th December), St. George (6th May), St. John the Baptist (20th January), St. Demetrius (8th November), St. Michael (21st November) and St. Sava (27th January).
Well, let’s get now to the point! Coming from Italy and growing up in a Catholic family, I didn’t know about the tradition of Slava when I moved to Serbia three months ago. Yet, it was one of the first topics brought to my attention, as friends and colleagues were celebrating their own Slavas, dedicating themselves to its preparation with much enthusiasm and fervor. They described this festivity as a huge occasion of gathering, with delicious food and drinks, songs and dances from the old traditions. My expectations were high, I couldn’t wait to be invited to a Slava!
Finally, that moment came: together with the other volunteers that are here with me, I had the honor to be invited to the Slava of “Planinarski Klub Tara”, a mountaineering association based in Rastište, in the hearth of Tara National Park. They celebrate it on the day of St. Sava and, for the occasion, they organized a whole weekend for all the participants.
Our Slava experience started on Friday evening, when we took a bus from Užice to Bajina Bašta and, after, we were taken to Rastište, to the mountaineering house. We were welcomed in the warmest and nicest way, with food, drinks, smiles and pleasant chatting. We helped (meaning learned how to) in preparing the house and delicacies for the main party on the following day. The night ended with rakjia and kolo, the traditional Serbian dance.
Saturday was Slava day! We started it with a big energizing breakfast, in order to be ready to face a 5-hours-long hike in the mountains of Tara National Park. We were a bit worried about it, as we definitely are not experts in mountaineering, but we perfectly managed to enjoy the hike, keep up with our guide and the whole group and even take amazing pictures in the nature, which was stunning. We went back to the house hungry and excited for what was coming: Slava was on! We enjoyed a delicious dinner made of Serbian traditional food like burek, gulaš, kuppus and rakija, of course. Little by little, people from the surrounding towns and villages started to arrive and then, the band came! That was the highlight of the night: Serbian traditional music spread all around the house, people dancing, singing out loud, enjoying themselves with friends and families, chatting and laughing. We met a lot of wonderful people, who were telling us about traditions and making us feel like home. The party didn’t end till the late night and finally we went to bed, tired but excited and delighted by our first Slava experience.
On Sunday, we enjoyed our last moments with the crew of Planinarski Klub Tara, we had breakfast together and tidied the place up a little bit before leaving. On our way back to Užice, our minds were still up there in the mountains, in the middle of pure and winter-cold nature, with great people who gave us one of the best weekends we had in Serbia so far.