Christmas in Montenegro
Christmas in Montenegro is steeped in unique traditions and customs. The country follows the old Julian calendar, meaning that Christmas Eve is celebrated on the 6th and Christmas Day on the 7th of January. The Orthodox Church observes a six-week Advent starting from the 28th of November, during which some people fast and avoid consuming animal-based products.
The Christmas Eve celebrations, known as 'Badnji dan' during the day and 'Badnje veče' after sunset, are integral to Montenegrin Christmas customs. Families gather to prepare for Christmas, and many people abstain from eating food derived from animals on this day.
Traditionally, men would go into the woods on Christmas Eve and cut a Yule Log called 'Badnjak' from an oak tree. However, as more people have moved to urban areas, they can purchase Badnjak from the market. The Badnjak is brought into the house on Christmas Eve and meant to burn throughout the evening and night.
The early evening of Christmas Eve sees people gather around large bonfires outside churches, where nativity and Christmas plays are on either inside or outside. People can bring special Badnjak to put on the bonfires. Montenegro has two Orthodox Churches - the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Montenegrin Orthodox Church - which have different main Cathedrals and host two large bonfires outside them on Christmas Eve.
One of Montenegro's most beloved Christmas traditions is baking a special kind of bread called 'Cesnica, ' which is rounded and passed around among family members. The bread contains a hidden coin, and whoever finds it is believed to have good fortune in the coming year. The main Christmas meal typically features 'pecenica' (roast pork), 'sarma' (cabbage stuffed with rice and ground meat), and various cakes.
Montenegrin Christmas customs also extend to the table setting, where a symbol of the stable or cave where Jesus was born is represented by a spread of straw under the dinner table. Some people cluck like a chicken when the straw is spread, symbolizing that Jesus wanted people to follow him like one big family, much like chickens gathering together. It's also customary to apply a handful of walnuts on the straw.
In Montenegrin and Serbian, people wish each other "Hristos se rodi" (Христос се роди) - Christ is born, and the reply is "Vaistinu se rodi" (Ваистину се роди) - trul