Note: The following are my experiences and may not reflect how other Balkan families celebrate.
I quite cheekily call my first month of the year, “Saint January”.
I live in a predominantly Bosnian Serb area of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and as such, the dominant faith is Orthodox Christian.
Celebrating various Saints Days is part of both that faith and family culture.
It seems to me that an overwhelming amount of Saints are celebrated in January. Hence “St January”.
Now I am no expert, but to the best of my knowledge each Orthodox family has its “Patron Saint”.
This past few days has seen “Jovandan” (St John’s Day).
I have been invited to this “Feast Day” by both my close neighbour and a close family member, both who have celebrate Jovandan.
It’s quite an honour to be invited to attend “Slava” as this event is known.
I have been fortunate over all the years I have been here to be able to attend, and to widen my cultural awareness.
Yes, there is some religious ceremony to it at the start, but nothing really heavy or awkward at all.
The following images are taken from the places i was invited to, so a mix of venues so to speak.
The menu is without exception traditional and almost the same for every family with a few minor changes here and there.
All the food I have ever been served has been made at home, and I have yet to see anything from a jar/can/bottled served.
Wine and beer of course excepted.
The menu then:
Meat (Pork and Chicken)
Side dishes of:
Balkan Cheese Pie
Pickled Cucumbers and Peppers
A massive variety, all homemade.
The men drink either Rakija (home distilled fruit brandy AND the default setting) or pivo (beer).
Ladies drink wine or juice.
The food is replenished constantly, and, as is Balkan custom, the hosts don’t sit and chat or eat, rather making sure that their guests want for nothing.
It’s very much the social occasion with long, deep and meaningful conversations about politics, the community etc.
Although traditional, I am always taken how rather informal the proceedings are.