Serbian Culture

Religion

Serbia is officially a state, yet religion plays a large role in terms of informing the cultural values and national identity of many Serbians. Indeed, throughout Serbian history, there has been a close association between identity and religious affiliation. For example, Serbs (the largest group in Serbia) mostly identify with Eastern . Regarding the total population, 84.6% identify as Eastern , while 5% identify as Catholic, 3.1% identify as Muslim, 1.0% identify as Protestant. Of the remaining population, 0.8% identify with some other religion, 1.1% identify as and 1.5% did not declare their religious affiliation.


Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Serbia

Although Serbia does not have an official religion, Eastern has a large and influential role in society. With respect to all the people worldwide who identify as part of the greater religion, distinctions of churches generally occur according to nationalities. Thus, in Serbia, Eastern is often referred to as Serbian . In the case of Serbia, national identity is often linked to the Serbian Church. Established in 1219, the Serbian Church is often understood as the institution that links contemporary Serbia with its long historical past. Since the breakup of former Yugoslavia, the church has again seen a strong revival. Since much of Serbian identity is linked to religious history, an attack on a church building is often interpreted as an attack on an individual Serbian or the collective.


While the Serbian Church is important to many Serbians, there are many people who have alternative spiritual beliefs. Thus, beliefs stemming from the Serbian Church need to be considered on an individual basis. Generally speaking, many older Serbians see the church as an important part of their religious, social and cultural life. Regardless of spiritual beliefs, visits to one’s local church during major events such as Christmas and Easter are common. Serbian churches are often filled with vividly painted icons, frescoes and elaborate wood carvings, along with the scent of incense. Serbians tend to follow the Julian calendar, in which Christmas occurs on the 7th of January.


For many Serbians, the time of ‘Slava’ is an important event within the family. Slava refers to an event in which family and friends pay homage to their patron saint by lighting candles, consuming special foods and performing other rituals. Many Serbian clubs and organisations also have their own Slava. The family’s celebration of their patron saint’s day is passed on from one generation to the next. It is considered to be one of the most important holidays for a family.

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