Easter in Serbia: Festivities, Customs and Traditions

Colourful Easter eggs in a basket

Easter is the most significant holiday in Serbia. It’s a time for families and friends to get together, enjoy the holiday season, and consume more food than should be humanly possible. But there’s so much more to Easter in Serbia than that.

To help you fully understand this holiday, we’ll guide you through the customs and traditions and teach you the most important expressions. By the time you finish reading, you’ll be able to celebrate Easter like a Serb!

Sounds good? Let’s get into the festive mood!

Easter in Serbia: Uskrs or Vaskrs?

Before we get into details, you should know that the main religion in Serbia is Christianity. More precisely, most of the population adheres to the Serbian Orthodox Church.

This fact explains why Serbian religious customs often differ from those in other Christian countries. Also, it causes some confusion regarding the name of the biggest holiday.

Specifically, there are disagreements about whether Easter should be called Uskrs or Vaskrs. As a result, you may hear that one is right and the other is wrong.

In reality, though, both options are correct. Namely, Uskrs is a Serbian term, while Vaskrs comes from an old language only used in the church today.

Therefore, whether you call it Uskrs or Vaskrs, it doesn’t matter. What matters is a passion for learning about other cultures and a love for fun.

Also, you don’t have to be religious (or a Serb) to enjoy Easter in Serbia. Everyone is welcome!

When is Easter in Serbia?

To celebrate Easter, you first need to know when it is, right? Well, except for the fact that it’s in the spring, the answer will change each year. In other words, Easter is a movable holiday.

To complicate things more, it won’t coincide with Easter in other countries. Yup, Serbs use a different calendar for their religious events — the Julian calendar.

That also explains why Serbian Božić (Christmas) is in January, not December.

Now, since calculating the exact date is complex and involves tracking the moon’s phases, your best bet is to google it. As for the next ten years, you can check the dates here.

How Serbs Celebrate Easter: Customs and Traditions

Since Serbian culture is rich and diverse, different places have different customs. That said, we’ll stick with mainstream traditions in this guide.

While Easter is always on Sunday, the festivities go on for several days before and after. Here, we’ll shed light on the significant days and related customs.

Spoiler alert: there’s no Easter Bunny or egg hunt. Still, eggs are a big thing.

Veliki Petak: The Good Friday

Everything starts on the Friday before Christmas. Veliki Petak (the Good Friday) represents the day of the crucifixion of Christ.

On this day, most people fast, which means no meat, eggs, or dairy. Commonly, people eat fish and pasulj prebranac(mushed baked beans).

Notably, Friday is when you’re supposed to color the Easter eggs (Uskršnja jaja). Traditionally, people have done it by boiling eggs with onion peel or nettle and decorating them with melted wax.

Today, there are many other ways to do this, including powdered colors, stickers, and various DIY techniques. In any case, you should use edible colors since all the eggs will be eaten in the coming days.

Well, almost all. Namely, Serbs usually choose one egg (if possible, a red one) and leave it somewhere in their home until next Easter. This egg is called čuvarkuća — the guardian of the home.

On the following Easter, they’ll place this egg into a river (to drive away bad luck) or bury it under a tree (hoping to get lots of fruits from that tree).

A child coloring eggs, preparing for Easter in Serbia
Kids love coloring Easter eggs 🙂

Easter: Egg Battles

At last, on Easter morning, it’s time for festivities. That said, religious people may start celebrating the night before by attending the midnight mass at a church.

Anyway, on Sunday morning (and throughout the day), you’re not supposed to greet people with the usual good morning or hello. Instead, you should say: Hristos Vaskrse (Christ is risen!). The proper reply is — Vaistinu Vaskrse (Indeed, he is risen!).

The best part of the day — especially for the little ones — is tucanje jajima (egg tapping). As we mentioned earlier, there are no Easter egg hunts in Serbia. Instead, people take part in egg battles.

Here’s how it works: you hold an egg with the tip up. Then, your opponent hits the egg, also with the tip. Then, you switch sides, and you get your turn. The person who ends up with the egg broken on both sides loses.

As a reward, the winner gets to keep both eggs. You can see how it works in this video.

Unsurprisingly, most people eat plenty of eggs during the Easter holidays. However, they don’t stop there.

If you’ve ever attended any Serbian holiday, you know there’s always enough food to feed a small village, and Easter is no exception.

In addition to everyone’s favorite ruska salata, people often make pig roasted on a spit (prase na ražnju) or host outdoor BBQ (roštilj) parties. And naturally, they like to relax with plenty of alcohol (rakija and beer are staples).

The most important thing, though, is spending the holidays with family and friends, sharing love and good vibes.

Serbs celebrate Easter with friends and family and lots of food and alcohol 🥂

Remembering the Dead

The cult of the dead is strong in Serbian culture, and people don’t forget their deceased ancestors on this holiday, either.

So, on the Monday after Easter (Pobusani ponedeljak) many people visit family graves. One of the customs is to leave a red egg on each grave so that the dead can enjoy the holiday, as well. Another tradition is giving out eggs to those less fortunate.

How to Say Happy Easter in Serbian

As for wishing someone a Happy Easter in Serbian, you can do it in two ways:

  •          Srećan Uskrs
  •          Srećan Vaskrs

 

Or, you can keep it general and go with Srećni praznici (Happy holidays).

We’ve already mentioned the greetings, but let’s repeat them:

Person A: Hristos Vaskrse!

Person B: Vaistinu Vaskrse!

 Alternatively, you may hear or see this version:

Person A: Hristos Voskrese!

Person B: Vaistinu Voskrese!

Both options are valid, so you can just go with the one that’s easier to pronounce.

Srećan Uskrs! Hristos Vaskrse! 🎉

Enjoy Easter in Serbia

At last, you’ve got all the info you need to celebrate Easter like a Serb. Now, you can enjoy all the customs and traditions, or only pick the ones you like. A final piece of advice: if you’re celebrating Easter in Serbia for the first time, go easy on food and alcohol. Otherwise, you may regret it before the holidays are over.

Finally, taking part in local traditions is an excellent way to practice your Serbian in a fun and engaging way. With that said, our group lessons are just as fun but offer more guidance and support. Join a group today and improve your Serbian in a relaxed atmosphere while chatting with other learners. Srećan Uskrs!

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