Burning the Bandnjak

The night before Christmas (Koledo, Božić) is called Banjde Veče, Badnji Dan, Badnjak in Serbian tradition, and this is when an oak tree called Badnjak is burned. Although people believe they are celebrating christian holliday, this is very old Slavic pagan tradition. The celebration of Koledo used to be in the time of winter solistice, now it’s celebrated on 6th and 7th of January. Badnjak represents an old god - when men go before the dawn to cut it, they greet it and wish it a happy holliday and bring it gifts such as wine, mead, bread made specially for it, wheat and so on. They must also ask the tree for the permission to cut it. They also mustn’t touch the tree with bare hands or “torture” it - meaning they must cut it down quickly, not more than thre strikes of an axe are permitted. It also musn’t touch the ground while it’s being taken home. When the Badnjak arrives home all housemembers must greet it and kiss it, and also give it gifts. Clearly, this represents the belief that the tree is in fact a living and a sacred creature. Badnjak then resides in fron of the house till the evening when it’s cut, a piece of it kept and the rest is burned. The theory is that Badnjak represents the old year and his son Božić (Christmas, literal translation-little god) the new year, and that this is an ancient battle in which Božić kills his father and starts the new year and the birth of the new Sun (Koledo).

The pictures are mine, from this years burning. (I’m a bit late with the posting, I’ve been very busy.) There are many other aspects of Badnjak and Koledo celebrations, which I will post about some other time.   

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