Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Yule Log in Croatia, Serbia, and Bulgaria

      In Croatia, Christmas Eve is called Badnjak (Christmas Eve Day: Badnji dan, Christmas Eve night: Badnja večer), after the traditional log that is cut on Christmas Eve and lit in the hearth of the home in the evening. In villages, the father of the family cuts down a piece of wood from a tree at dawn, reciting the Lord's Prayer and making the sign of the cross, invoking God to bless the family. In the cities, logs are usually bought instead of cut down. The log is brought to the home, but left inside until the evening, where it is brought in and placed in the hearth or fireplace. Holy water is then poured on the log, usually accompanied by the Apostle's Creed. It is then lit and the father praises Jesus and welcomes Christmas Eve.
      The badnjak is a central feature in the traditional Serbian Christmas celebration. It is the log that a family solemnly brings into the house and places on the fire in the evening of Christmas Eve. The tree used for the badnjak, preferably a young and strait oak, is ceremoniously felled in the early morning of Christmas Eve. Traditionally the head of the family was sent dressed in his best clothes to cut down an oak, elm, or pear tree. That tree is used as the badnjak. A prayer for forgiveness was necessary before it could be chopped down with three strikes with axe, and carried on one's right shoulder as it is not allowed to touch the ground. The burning of the log is accompanied by prayers to God so that the coming year may bring much happiness, love, luck, riches, and food. It would burn on through Christmas Day, whether rekindled or kept burning from the Eve. The first person to visit the family on that day should strike the burning badnjak with a poker or a branch to make sparks fly from it, at the same time uttering a wish that the happiness, prosperity, health, and joy of the family be as abundant as the sparks. The ideal environment to fully carry out these customs is the traditional multi-generation country household. Since most Serbs today live in towns and cities, the badnjak is symbolically represented by several leaved oak twigs that can be bought at marketplaces or received in churches. The origin of the badnjak is explained by events surrounding the Nativity of Jesus Christ. Scholars, however, regard these customs as practices inherited from the old Slavic religion.
      In Bulgaria , it is an important part of Christmas Eve preparations. Traditionally а young man of the family was sent dressed in his best clothes to cut down an oak, elm, or pear tree. That tree is used as the Budnik (bg:Бъдник). A prayer for forgiveness was necessary before it could be chopped down and carried on one's right shoulder as it is not allowed to touch the ground. An indication of the importance of the ritual is that Christmas Eve translates to Budnik or Budnik Eve (bg:Бъдни вечер) in Bulgaria. In some regions, upon the man's return he asks "Do you glorify the Young God?" three times and receive a positive answer "We glorify Him, welcome". After that a hole is bored in one end of the badnik and filled with Chrism made of wine, cooking oil, and incense. The hole is plugged, and that end of the log is wrapped with a white linen cloth before the badnik is festively burned on the hearth. The log is considered to possess special healing powers and the ritual includes songs and uttering of wishes as the log is lit much like the Serbian ritual described above. The log has to burn all night and it is believed that its warmth and light symbolize the coming of Christ as well as providing a warm welcome to Virgin Mary and the family's ancestors who are believed to be guests at the table according to traditions in some regions. Sometimes the fire is put off using wine in the morning. Remains of the log are cherished and sometimes used to make personal crosses, also to make a plough and ashes are simply spread over a field or vineyard to induce better yields.

Bringing in the Yule Log at an environmental center.

No comments:

Post a Comment