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 08.01. 2012. / Akademediasrbija

The Nativity – Christmas is the day when we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. For Orthodox believers, it is the most joyous festival. It is the day when God came down unto earth and also the day that divided time into that before Jesus Christ and that after his birth.

The Serbian Orthodox Church, as well as several other Eastern Orthodox churches, including the Russian Orthodox Church and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, celebrate Christmas on December 25 according to the old, Julian calendar, or on January 7 according to the new, Gregorian calendar. More from Ljiljana Sinđelić Nikolić.

The birth of Jesus Christ was a special event, unprecedented in the history of humankind. Not only was that event unique, but it was also a mystical and extraordinary one. It was Virgin Mary that gave birth to Jesus, nine months after an immaculate conception. She gave birth to a man and the Lord at the same time. Mary's husband Joseph learnt from an angel of God, who spoke to him in a dream, that a son of Mary had been conceived by the Holy Spirit. Although his human mind was unable to understand that in full, Joseph accepted the angel's words and he and Mary went to Betlehem, where Jesus was born. According to popular tradition, Jesus was born in a cave, or a stable, where shepherds kept animals, as Mary and Joseph had found no place in an inn. The baby Jesus was put in a manger, where he was visited, first by shepherds and then by wise men and magi. They had all realized that Jesus had come unto earth to be with people and to teach them about Christian life.

This great holiday abounds in symbolism and has for centuries given rise to numerous questions and answers. It is a festival of family reunion and joy and many customs are related to it. In Serbia, on Christmas Eve, Badnjak – a piece of an oak tree – is brought home and so is straw. All that symbolizes the Nativity scene – the manger in Betlehem.

Christmas celebrations start with a holy liturgy, which is served in churches at midnight. People then return home to wait for polozajnik - the first man or boy that enters one's home on Christmas day. Popular belief holds it that they bring good luck. A special bread, in which one inserts a gold and a silver coin, is baked on Christmas and it is believed that the family members that get a piece of bread with a coin in it will be lucky throughout the year. Roast meat, sweets and various delicacies are served at Christmas, but one must not abandon oneself to excessive eating and drinking as that is not the essence of a Christian holiday. In fact, all these customs and the Christmas table are just a decoration to the very essence of this day – which is to mark the Nativity, because, but for the Nativity, there would have been no Resurrection and eternal life. By coming unto earth and by being born as a human, our Lord showed his immense love for people. Hence, love is the foundation of Christian faith and every Christian's life.

/Radio Srbija /

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