In and Out of Customs

Before liturgy this morning my tutor (vestryman) was chatting with me and said he remembered from his childhood how people would have bonfires on the eve of today’s feast of the Nativity of St John.

I’m not sure whether these customs are still observed but it’s recorded that girls would make flower wreaths on this day and on the eve shepherds would build fires and visit the livestock. There was a connection between these fires and the fire of Badnje Vece in the same way there is a connection between Christ and St John the Baptist.

It’s amazing to think of all these beautiful customs which have seemingly disappeared. What remains are the customs on Christmas and Pascha. On the one hand one might argue that these folk customs drew people away from the real meaning of the feast. Yet it’s things we did in our childhood that remind us of the date; as if, in a way, it’s the other way around – the customs draw us to the feast.

Whatever the case I’m enjoying the sunshine today. This is my first blog post I’m doing on my cell phone. I’m starting a new custom of my own.

Happy Feast!

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3 thoughts on “In and Out of Customs

  1. Not sure of the correct answer to this but here is something from Wikipedia:

    “According to the Serbian Orthodox Church. Saint John (Sveti Jovan) is known by the name Igritelj (dancer) because it is thought the sun is dancing on this day. Among traditions are that girls watch the sunrise through their wreath, to become red as the sun, towards the evening in the heights, Ivanjske vatre (kresovi, bonfire) are lit, and dancing and singing takes place. It is a tradition for people to become Godfathers and blood brothers on this day, as John is a symbol of character and rectitude.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midsummer#Serbia

  2. Thank you for a great post, Father! Although some may consider such folk customs at best as a distraction from “pure” Christianity and at worst as remnants of Slavic Paganism, if we are honest, we are necessitated to acknowledge that many of the “mainstream” holiday observances in our churches and society pre-date Christianity. Personally I cherish these traditions and honor the evangelistic wisdom of our ancestors to adapt and to reconstruct them in light of Christianity. As our Lord said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” Matthew 5:17.

  3. Srecan Praznik! Fr. Milovan, can you explain why today is referred as “Ivanjdan” and not “Jovandan”. After our sermon on Sunday about the Nativity of Sv. Jovan I couldn’t help but want to learn more! Both of your blog entries are great today (as usual!) In my friend’s village (Prnjavor) they lite fires a tradition called “lile”, but because of the language barrier, I’m unable to Google why, when, whatfor, etc.. Please say hello to your lovely wife ~ happy birthday, zivela, mnogaja ljeta! Thank you.

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