The Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) will celebrate Christmas Eve on Thursday with yule log fires and services in all of its temples while the faithful gather around the table.
The SPC marks time using the Julian calendar according to which Christmas falls on January 7.
According to tradition, the Christmas fast begins 40 days before Christmas. The tradition, which is still followed in rural communities, is for the head of the household to cut an oak branch or sapling before sunrise, takes it back to his home and brings it into the house after dark to bring happiness and health to the household. The tradition also calls for the oak branch or sapling to be burned on the hearth with grains of wheat and wine over it.
Oak yule logs will be lit in front of the biggest SPC temple, the St Sava Church in Belgrade on Thursday evening.
Serbians celebrate Christmas as a family holiday around the table when traditional bread is broken and handed out to the family with pieces left for the home and for guests. Another tradition is the first visitor of Christmas day who is given gifts. Most families receive the same person every year.