Montenegrins are not very religious people, but they celebrate the church holidays more broadly, cheerfully and interestingly than we celebrate such holidays.
Religion is a national feature here. According to our opinion, Montenegrins ask a personal question about faith, but they initially rank you among their own.
Any Montenegrin can immediately fraternize with you, taking you for an Orthodox.It is done with all his soul and no one will even think that you can be another faith or even an atheist!
Christmas, or Božić in Montenegro is called the main family holiday. It is one of the main events of the year, which is celebrated on January 7.
Christmas Eve “Badnidan”, celebrated on January 6, comes firstly before Christmas celebration in Montenegro. According to the ancient folk tradition, the morning of this day should begin with the fact that the head of the family together with his eldest son go to the forest to get the “badnyak” (Christmas log). The result is announced by the gunfire.
The head of the family pray then he must cut down the chosen tree with three strokes and carry the log home on his shoulders. Actually, it is impossible to inflict more than three strokes with an axe. Traditionally, the log should burn in the fireplace for three days.
In modern cities, people, who live in houses without fireplaces, replace the traditional log by a symbolic ligament of oak branches. After Christmas, a bunch of oak branches can be found in the most unexpected places, for example, tied up to machine numbers or the fence of the house.
Traditionally, on Christmas Eve morning, the rest of the family begins to fry a Christmas piglet on a spit over an open fire – the “pečenica”. The piglet is fed especially for the holiday. Now you can buy this pig in a cookie shop and you can be free the rest part of the day for the purpose of visiting neighbors and calling relatives.
A Christmas pie is being prepared, cakes and other treats are baked for a family dinner. In the evening the dinner should be lenten, therefore every hostess in Montenegro can boast of many lenten recipes, which are more than in any cookery book. It need to go to bed early.
Morning of January 7th
On Christmas morning, all family members wake up early, wash themselves with icy water, wear ceremonial clothing. Montenegrins often wear national costumes for Christmas. Then people go to the service in the temple, where everyone is called by a bell ring.
After the divine service, they return home to the festive table, where they need to drink a glass of rakiya and eat dried fruit. The Christmas dinner does not start until the “polozhaynik” – a respected guest – comes into the house. He has to burn a branch of the badnjak in the fireplace, raising as many sparks as possible. These sparks symbolize wealth and happiness in the next year.
The “polozhaynik” himself is a man like the Magi, who came to bow to the newborn Jesus.
When the badnjak has burnt everyone sits at the table, and the owner solemnly takes out the “pečenica”, which is served with stewed and sour cabbage, a dish of stewed beans called “prebranac” and other treats. The heart is the first, which is extracted from the “pečenica”, it is shared among all family members.
Another important ritual is the cutting of the festive pie “pogachi” from the fresh dough. During cooking, a coin is always placed into the pie. At the table, first, the pie is spun around, then a cruciform incision is made in the middle and the wine is poured there.
Then the pie is divided between all the participants of the meal. The one who gets a piece of a pie with a coin will be happy for the whole next year. Nowadays the coin in the pie is the most popular tradition among other traditions in Montenegro.
Usually a tradition “a coin in a pie” is lead in families with children. Adults do not like it these coins, because it is possible to break the tooth about this “happiness”.
There were noisy Christmas celebrations on the streets, lights and music everywhere in the past. Now it all comes down to a family celebration and a visiting close friends in cafes. Anyway, this holiday is celebrated much wider than the New Year in Montenegro, and only in Orthodox families.
If you want to plunge into the past and celebrate the Montenegrin Christmas, you should celebrate it in countryside, where traditions are more often observed.
You can also read about the history of money in Montenegro or about myths and legends of Montenegro.