t is a branch of one or the other type of oak that the host brings home on Christmas Eve. That evening the Badnjak (bad-nyak), or the Yule log, is set on fire in the hearth. In towns and cities it not convenient to set fire to a large piece of wood, so only small twigs are used. The flames of the Badnjaktransform the Old Testament, but also the pagan religion of our forefathers into the light of the new testament.
RELIGION AND TRADITION
The Christmas Eve day, on 6 January, is the Christmas Eve Day and the night that follows is the Christmas Eve Night. It is because that night nobody goes to sleep but stays awake, expecting the holiest moment in the human history. The Christmas Eve Day marks the end of the Christmas Fast and the apex of expecting the coming of our Saviour. In an atmosphere of joyful silence, the Church is getting ready to greet the Baby God. The believers get blessed Badnjak to take it home. When brought home, the Yule log is set on fire – as once the shepherds of Bethlehem brought branches and made the fire to keep the newly born Christ and the Virgin Mary warm. On Christmas Eve, straw is brought in the house – as the straw in the cave and crib where Christ was born. Then the whole family gather around the crib, by the log, at a table still with lenten food, in expectation.
Two days before Christmas, on 5 January, is Tucindan. The Christmas roast is prepared on that day. As the whole world anticipates the coming of the newly born Child, after a forty-days’ fasting period, members of the family smell the forthcoming feast. Even today, on Tucindan, people in rural areas slaughter piglets, lambs or turkeys and geese or chicken. In a city, one simply goes to the butcher’s.
This custom is a very old one in Serbs, dating back from the pre Christian times, but with Church it gained its true meaning.