The word Božić (Christmas) comes from bogić, a diminutive of bog (god) – the way Serbs baby-talked to God who became man from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary.
Božić is a folk name for a religious festivity of the Birth of Jesus Christ; or also the Old Church Slavonic name of the holiday, Rozdestvo Hristovo (Nativity of Christ).
One of the greatest festivities celebrated in the whole Christian world is Christmas – commemorating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Proximity of the official calendar New Year, “Santa Clauses” in department stores and all popular activity of buying gifts as the most important feature of the festivity, cast a shadow over the essential Christian nature of Christmas.
Christmas is actually the birth of the New World, since the birth of Christ is the most significant date in the history of mankind, the date that divides history in two – the period before and the period after the birth of our Saviour, God-Man, Son of God in a human body.
Lord came to Earth in a modest manner, as He did not come to rule, but to serve the people and to teach them to serve each other. Jesus Christ was born in a cave in a small Jewish town of Bethlehem. The first ones to recognise Him as the Heavenly King were the Three Wise Men of the East, who arrived to Bethlehem following a bright star that had never been seen before. Simple, modest shepherds, tending their sheep near the cave, were the first to hear the gospel of the angels announcing the birth of the Son of God.
And it has always been that the modest and wisest ones find God the easiest way. The Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on 25 December by the Julian calendar or on 7 January by the Gregorian calendar. The manner of celebrating Christmas differs in some details depending on the Church. It may differ in its date, but the essence remains the same – the joy that the Son of God came from the Heavens and became a man for our salvation.
The Serbian Orthodox Church nurtures some nice customs related to the Christmas celebrations. The festivity itself is preceded by the Christmas Fast as a form of preparation. As it celebrates the birth of a new life, Christmas is a family holiday – holiday of children and parenting – of fatherhood and motherhood. The three Sundays preceding the Christmas Day are called the Children’s Day, the Mother’s Day and the Father’s Day, respectively. Christmas Eve is the day before Christmas.
No other holiday has so many nice customs, but the most important thing we can best experience at the festive liturgy when a priest greets the congregation with words, “God’s Peace, Christ is born!”, and the whole congregation responds joyfully, “Indeed is born!”. This is how the believing Serbs greet each other during the festivity. The celebrations last three days. The day following the Christmas Day is dedicated to the Holy Mother of God and the third day is dedicated to St Stephen, the Deacon and Protomartyr, who died for his belief in Christ.
Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
hath shone forth the light of wisdom upon the world;
for therein those who worship the stars
have been taught by a star
to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness,
and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high.
O Lord, glory be to Thee!