Today Is Our Slava
Ordinarily on this day we would be entertaining friends coming my to wish us well on this Serbian Orthodox holiday. It is unique to Serbs , but they don't all celebrate on the same day. Each family celebrates on the its patron saint's feast day. My husband's family's saint is St. Nicholas, so they celebrate on December 19. Normally, when a couple gets as old as we are, they would have passed the family candle on to the oldest son and he would then begin to host the celebration. That first candle was lit by the first Christian ancestor. The host lights the candle each year on the morning of Slava. It stands for the light of the Gospel and the covenant that has been passed from father to son each year to remain faithful to Christ.
My husband received the family's silver candlestick after we adopted our children, who were then seven and eleven. It was a pretty big deal and my husband would invite everyone we knew and the children invited everyone they knew and we had enough food on hand to feed them all. Yet we never knew how many to expect. It made having enough food prepared a bit difficult. It used to be in the early days when the rich celebrated, they would invite the poor in to share their food. We had a few who had less than we did at our celebration, as well.
Before Slava, we had to prepare two special ceremonial foods – the ones you see on the table in the photo. One is zjito , made from ground wheat, sugar, and ground nuts. I believe I posted an article about it yesterday on tsu. The other food is the Slava Cake, a sweet bread that each family decorates in its own way. I will post the recipe for it on tsu today. It's a lot of work just to make those two essential parts of the celebration and the woman (or women) of the house work hard to make the rest of the food as well. They also have to see that the house is spic and span before all the expected guests arrive. My husband always helped make the zjito and the Slava cake, and the children helped him decorate the cake when they were here.
As many of you know, we lost our son in an accident in August, 1991 and his older sister Sarah had already left home under less than happy circumstances. Our last Slava in Newbury Park was the largest ever, and Sarah's best friend, who felt sad for us, came to help me in her place. Sixty people were there, mostly because they were being supportive, knowing how much we missed the children.
After we moved here, the house was smaller, and no one in our new church had ever heard of our tradition and we didn't have the children or neighbors anymore. We were lucky if, no matter how many we invited, two or three families along with a faithful friend and Kosta's parents came, but Kosta still invited everyone and I needed to be ready with enough food. The new church was not as easy to train as the old and there were many more commuity events to compete with here. I rather enjoyed having it smaller, and my mother-in-law told me it's not normal to invite everyone you know when you are no longer in a Serbian community. She died in 2004. My own mom died in 2005, and we inherited her larger home. We had Slava there that year and I took the picture shared here of my husband next to the table that held the Slava elements.
We carried the tradition on for a few more years, but my husband finally realized that it was getting to be too difficult to carry on, as we were getting much older than his parents had been when they passed the candle to us. We had no one left to pass it to. It would have been impossible to celebrate this year in the condition we are in anyway. In future years we may have what my mother-in-law referred to as “just light the candle” celebrations as a private affair. We can no longer handle making the ceremonial foods, and we aren't supposed to eat wheat anymore.
Now Slava is just another day, except in our hearts, but one full of wonderful memories of a house full of friends and our parents and children with us. Now they are all gone, as our fathers preceeded our mothers in death. What we have left is a silver candlestick.
Pictures and content are original and may not be used without permission, B. Radisavljevic, Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved
Image Credit » I took the photo