Author Topic: Converts Taking a Slava?  (Read 780 times)

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Offline Joseph Hazen

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Converts Taking a Slava?
« on: March 09, 2015, 08:06:36 PM »
Most specifically to any ethnically Serbian posters here,

I converted in a Serbian parish. It's fairly common there to start celebrating a Slava when you convert. Now I'm at Seminary and a convert friend of mine mentioned wanting to start the tradition, but he was afraid that people would think he was a poser or larper or something. I thought I'd ask the authentic Serbs what they thought.

Personally I always figured American Orthodoxy, as it developed, would be a mix of different traditions, and this is a beautiful one the Serbs were contributing. I've never had a Serb say anything negative about converts adopting the practice in person, but of course people are politer in public, and I've known several converts (myself included) who celebrate the family's patron saint every year.

So, Serbians, do you mind this? Do you feel like it's cultural approbation? Would you encourage converts to celebrate a Slava?
« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 08:08:23 PM by Joseph Hazen »

Offline Cyrillic

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2015, 08:14:06 PM »
Do you feel like it's cultural approbation?

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« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 08:14:22 PM by Cyrillic »
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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2015, 08:19:21 PM »
If you've joined a Serbian parish, surely it's understood you're "appropriating" Serbian Christian ways?

For a brief moment I thought your title was about marrying a female Slav.
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Offline Joseph Hazen

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2015, 08:28:39 PM »
...yes, I meant appropriation.  ;D I'm sorry, it's been a long day. Daylight savings time makes for early mornings.

Let me add: does it matter if the convert did not convert into a Serbian parish?
« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 08:30:49 PM by Joseph Hazen »

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2015, 08:40:47 PM »
Didn't even notice that.
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Offline Agabus

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2015, 09:05:42 PM »
I didn't know a Slava is basically a Serbian thing until spending a couple of years in an Antiochian parish. I assume this is how an indigenous "American" Orthodoxy will organically develop, with ignorant rubes like me adopting a melting pot of local traditions as they stumble through unfamiliar landscape.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 09:10:01 PM by Agabus »
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Offline Carl Kraeff (Second Chance)

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2015, 10:29:24 PM »
It seems to be a uniquely Serbian custom, with no support for it in the common Holy Tradition. I rather doubt that it will expand beyond Serbs.

Offline Paisius

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2015, 11:38:09 PM »
I don't even know what you are talking about.

Offline Carl Kraeff (Second Chance)

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2015, 09:07:50 AM »
I don't even know what you are talking about.

Read
http://orthodoxwiki.org/Slava (written by a Serbian) and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slava for a more objective account.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2015, 09:09:55 AM by Carl Kraeff (Second Chance) »

Offline TheTrisagion

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2015, 09:25:44 AM »
I read this as converts taking a slave. I was going to express my disapproval of slavery, but since that is not the topic here, feel free to carry on.  :P
« Last Edit: March 10, 2015, 09:25:58 AM by TheTrisagion »
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Offline Dominika

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2015, 05:30:30 PM »
It's a difficult question.
One friends of mine, a Polish convert to Orthodoxy, was thinking about adopting the custom of Slava (his Slava would be for example the day of his reception into Orthodox Church, st. Mary Magdalene), and it's despite the fact he belongs to the Polish Church. However, when I described him detailly what are origins of Slava, he realised it's not so easy to just adopt it, as it has very deep roots. I hope know origins of Slava, now only what does it mean now?

Well, I don't want to claim that Slava is something so exclusive that no one convert can take it and it may be celebrated only by Serbs. Because, on the other hand, is good to celebrate the day of the reception into the Church. And just adopt some Slava traditions for it and treat the saint of this day as an "additional" patron beside your baptism day. However, I don't know if it really should be celebrated by your whole family and transferred for your descendants, for the future generations.

That's actually a good question for your priest/parish priest.
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Offline Joseph Hazen

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2015, 05:50:19 PM »
...when I described him detailly what are origins of Slava, he realised it's not so easy to just adopt it, as it has very deep roots...However, I don't know if it really should be celebrated by your whole family and transferred for your descendants, for the future generations.

That's actually a good question for your priest/parish priest.

I don't mean to be purely reductionist, but today's Slavas were once a new celebration for the Serbian people as well, marking their conversion. Families today celebrate them because they were passed on. If the goal is to pass on our faith to our children, this seems an excellent way to do so, another reinforcement. It will gain greater significance as it becomes something celebrated generations and generations down the road, just as the contemporary Serbian celebration did. Does the idea just make you very uncomfortable?

My priest back home celebrates the Slavas of converts, with kolach and koliva and the whole blessing. I don't know what he would say about those who don't convert into a Serbian parish...but someday there won't be Serbian parishes in America, only American parishes. *Shrug*

Mr. Kraeff, that link you posted says:
Quote
However, this is not an exclusively Serbian custom, as it is also known among the Bulgars, the Albanian, and even in parts of Greece and Romania.

Which is an interesting addition to this discussion.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2015, 05:59:22 PM by Joseph Hazen »

Offline Dominika

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2015, 06:05:30 PM »
...when I described him detailly what are origins of Slava, he realised it's not so easy to just adopt it, as it has very deep roots...However, I don't know if it really should be celebrated by your whole family and transferred for your descendants, for the future generations.

That's actually a good question for your priest/parish priest.

I don't mean to be purely reductionist, but today's Slavas were once a new celebration for the Serbian people as well, marking their conversion. Families today celebrate them because they were passed on. If the goal is to pass on our faith to our children, this seems an excellent way to do so, another reinforcement. It will gain greater significance as it becomes something celebrated generations and generations down the road, just as the contemporary Serbian celebration did. Does the idea just make you very uncomfortable?

Me personally ti doesn't make so uncomfortable ;) As I wrote, I catch the idea of adopting Slava tradition as the day of your receiving into the Church, as it's actually the genesis of Slava among the Serbs: it's the day of our first ancestor that received Christianity, that was baptised and probably (if it's not Christ/Theotokos feast) took the name of the saint that's commemorated on this day. So in such terms it's quite logical and adopt some customs of Slava. I don't think you should adopt all, as it varies from family to family, from region to region and it also depends on the day of Slava (if it's always the fast day, if it's a great feast, if it's a day of a saint etc.).
For example, I have some doubts regarding the preparation of kolivo for the Slava of a convert. As it's a symbol of the prayer for our ancestors that were celebrating the same Slava (actually, that's a genesis of Slava: (the cult of the ancestors, then converted into something Christian). As for other traditions such as preparing kolač and blessing it, singing Slava troparions, lighthing the candle, having the icon of Slava etc. - I find it very correct. I also have some doubts regarding "slavarice" that are an important part of the whole ceremony and the prayer, but they, yeah, include the prayers for the ancestors, for the Serbian people and above all, they very vary.

And I'm not sure about passing it to your children. But, actually, they will be Orthodox due to your decision and the day of the reception into the Church, so maybe it makes a sense?...
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Offline Joseph Hazen

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2015, 06:22:09 PM »
Oh you make a good point, Dominika, about the koliva. The saint I took when I converted was St. John of San Francisco. His feast fell on the day my grandmother died (a few days after my conversion day). She wasn't Orthodox, but she was my Godmother in Roman Catholicism that I was leaving. My priest agreed that that was a good incorporation of the ancestral quality of the Slava celebration. But obviously koliva can't be made for her.

However, the link that Mr. Kraeff posted also says the koliva represents the following:

Quote
Slava’s wheat represents the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ reminded us that except a grain of wheat die it cannot rise again, even as it was necessary that He die, be buried, and on the third day rise again so that we all can triumph over death. The Slavа's wheat is prepared as an offering to God for all of the blessings we have received from Him; it also is to honor the Patron Saint and to commemorate our ancestors who lived and died in the Orthodox faith.

So for us first generation Orthodox the wheat will have to represent Christ and honor the saint, until our kids make it for us  ;) The prayers which pray for our dead departed will maybe have to be ignored until they're needed, such as the prayers for fertility in a wedding for a very elderly couple.

And yes, our kids should be Orthodox (they better be Orthodox)

I'm afraid I don't know what 'slavarice' are?

Offline Dominika

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2015, 06:32:02 PM »
I'm afraid I don't know what 'slavarice' are?

It's a plural from "slavarica". As you, it's realated to the name "Slava", but also just to the word "glory".
It's the last part of the Slava ceremony (blessing of the kolač, singing troparions etc.) and they're a kind of toasts-prayers, ended always with the phrase "Va slavu i čest" ("For the glory and honour") and drinking a bit of the red wine that had been blessed in the ceremony. The prayers are usually rhymed, some of them are parts of the "usual" prayers and some not. In each region (and family) there is a different number of them (it may be 8, 10 or whatever), so the content also varies. The end of slavarice is singing "Mnogaja ljeta" ("Many years").
Here you have an example: http://www.orthodox.bloger.index.hr/post/slavarica/1343522.aspx
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Offline Joseph Hazen

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #15 on: March 10, 2015, 07:19:05 PM »
Very interesting. I've never seen that done at my parish. Are they done in all regions of Serbia? The final bit is the Augmented Litany, followed by "Many Years." That's how I see it in all the online translations of the blessing as well. Maybe in America that replaced the slavarice?

Not knowing about them certainly means converts will probably not adopt that aspect; it seems to have been minimized in English, so your worry about that part might resolve itself. Or, as the set seems to vary, only ones applicable to American Orthodox could be substituted.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2015, 07:22:10 PM by Joseph Hazen »

Offline Dominika

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #16 on: March 10, 2015, 08:12:53 PM »
Very interesting. I've never seen that done at my parish. Are they done in all regions of Serbia? The final bit is the Augmented Litany, followed by "Many Years." That's how I see it in all the online translations of the blessing as well. Maybe in America that replaced the slavarice?

Not knowing about them certainly means converts will probably not adopt that aspect; it seems to have been minimized in English, so your worry about that part might resolve itself. Or, as the set seems to vary, only ones applicable to American Orthodox could be substituted.

It's done at home, rather everywhere but with some varieties. Yeah, the part of blessing kolač is done at church, but not only - I mean, the whole ceremony is done at home, as it's feast of the family, of the home.

Edit: slavarica is only the part of the Slava of the family. Not of the parish, an organization etc.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2015, 08:14:44 PM by Dominika »
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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #17 on: March 11, 2015, 01:31:04 AM »
I read this as converts taking a slave. I was going to express my disapproval of slavery, but since that is not the topic here, feel free to carry on.  :P

That belongs in the Christian Domestic Discipline thread.
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Offline Carl Kraeff (Second Chance)

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #18 on: March 11, 2015, 01:28:05 PM »

Mr. Kraeff, that link you posted says:
Quote
However, this is not an exclusively Serbian custom, as it is also known among the Bulgars, the Albanian, and even in parts of Greece and Romania.

Which is an interesting addition to this discussion.

Only one of the links, the article in Orthodox Wiki written by a Serbian said that. The article in Wikipedia said something a bit different to a Western ear, but a world of difference to those of the Balkans: "The Slava ... is a Serbian Orthodox Church tradition of the ritual glorification of one's family's patron saint among Serbs and Montenegrins, and also Serbs in Macedonia. "
« Last Edit: March 11, 2015, 01:29:52 PM by Carl Kraeff (Second Chance) »

Offline Joseph Hazen

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #19 on: March 11, 2015, 02:29:54 PM »
Well, the more I read about converts and Slavas on other sites, and based on the reactions on this site, I don't see any large opposition to the idea (and some Serbs seem honored and excited by the idea). Its a wonderful contribution to Orthodox piety, and those of us who adopt the tradition have that much more to be thankful for towards the Serbs who've protected and practiced the Orthodox faith for thousands of years before we arrived on the scene.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2015, 02:30:58 PM by Joseph Hazen »

Offline Alpo

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #20 on: March 11, 2015, 03:13:12 PM »
Te only Serb that I've ever met was from Croatia so I know nothing about Serbia or her culture. But if Serbs were objecting converts adopting local customs that are practised in the local parish IMO that would be basically like saying "You don't belong here."

Offline Dominika

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #21 on: March 17, 2015, 01:23:15 PM »
Found some pictures connected with the topic ;) drawn by by Emma Fick






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Offline mabsoota

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #22 on: March 17, 2015, 03:42:46 PM »
wow, i am serbian and i didn't know it!
 ;)
i celebrate my 'slava' today, and also on the date when i became orthodox.

i was chrismated on the EO feast day of saint matthias, and his feast day in the coptic church is today,
and so i remember him both days!

i felt a special connection to him since just before i was orthodox, when i got to 'take the short straw' in an anglican service
where the minister was making a practical demonstration of how to 'draw lots' and i briefly took the role of saint matthias.
then, soon after i became orthodox, i was trying to find an icon to use as my picture on another website.
i did not recognise most of the icons at that time (!) but then saw saint matthias and was drawn to him.
this is why i still use him on this website too.

then AFTER that, i found out saint matthias was busy having his feast day when i was joining the church, so i was delighted!
 :)
(i also celebrate saint simon the stylite, and saint patriarch primus, the 5th coptic patriarch,
who are celebrated the same day in the coptic church)

i don't celebrate it with any special bread, but with prayers and rejoicing and with going to liturgy where possible.
may the prayers of saint matthias be with you all, and also the prayers of our dear departed patriarch shenouda 3rd,
who departed 3 years ago today.
 :)

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #23 on: March 17, 2015, 08:48:45 PM »
My Family took St Athanasius as our Family Patron Saint or Slava because it was his teachings that led us out of the Mormon Church and set us on the path to the Holy Orthodox Church. His teachings refuted so well the false teaching of Mormonism that developed in the mid 1800s. We will honor him in each generation.
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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #24 on: March 18, 2015, 01:11:31 AM »
Found some pictures connected with the topic ;) drawn by by Emma Fick

So, just eat a lot?  Pretty normal for us Americans.
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Offline mabsoota

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #25 on: March 18, 2015, 03:29:23 PM »
ahh, i love saint athanasius
 :)

i am so glad for you and your family that God lead you to safety.

more about saint athanasius:
http://www.copticchurch.net/synaxarium/9_7.html#1

we commemorate him next month; i wonder if your commemoration is around the same time?

Offline Dominika

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #26 on: March 19, 2015, 06:10:16 AM »
Found some pictures connected with the topic ;) drawn by by Emma Fick

So, just eat a lot?  Pretty normal for us Americans.
Absolutely not. Even in the pictures (that are quite laic) you have some info about traditions regarding the Slava and its food. The bread, kolivo and wine for Slava are prepared in a special manner, blessed with special prayers etc. And that's the main aim of Slava: prayer of gratefulness to our patron for the protection of the family over centuries; prayer for our ancestors that has kept the holy Orthodoxy; prayer for our family to keep the Orthodoxy, their health etc. ; prayer for our homeland, our nation that along with the family has taught as the Orthodoxy.

Slava was one of the main reasons tat allowed to majority of the Serbs to keep the Christian Orthodox faith in the period of Turks (that are stories that even when Turks were attacking e.g a village, they would not attack the home that celebrated its Slava that day).

Of course, it's an ideal vision and tehre are many families that treat Slava as a one of the greatest occassions (along with Pascha, Christmas, birthday and wedding) to prepare a hughe family and-not-olny gathering with lots of food and drinking:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x01odFbrQLY (see from 13:50 if you don't know Serbian).
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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #27 on: March 19, 2015, 11:16:01 AM »
Dominika, you're a treasure.
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Offline Branthony

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #28 on: March 24, 2015, 05:41:28 PM »
first let me say I have not read all the comments on this, I know so bad right! My wife and I both are converts however her family is half Serbian. Since her family is protestant she doesn't know who her families' slava is. This is. a tradition that she would like us to do as a family (our family not her family) though. We did not convert as a family though so picking one is tricky, we spoke to our priest about this and we're going to go one of two ways, (he's consulting a Serbian Priest friend for guidance, we are in ROCOR). Option one, is the least desirable honestly, it's just picking one, we have one in mind but it isn't really following the tradition. The other is taking Saint Michael. The reason for Saint Michael is because I was very close friends with an elderly Serbian man at my last parish, his Slava was Saint Michael, his children are not orthodox, so the idea is that we would take his slava. Honestly saying Mr.George was my friend is not really explaining it adequately, we where very close, one day at the hospital, in response to being asked if I was his son, he said "he is closer to me than my son". I feel that Mr. George would like it if we continued this tradition as if we where his family. I loved him as if he was my grandfather, and I think he would say "the feeling, it is mutual". These are just my thoughts on this, we'll see what the serbian priest thinks though, I'll update this once I have an answer.
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Offline Jovan

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #29 on: March 24, 2015, 06:00:15 PM »
Dear brother Joseph Hazen, you should not feel any pressure about choosing yourself a Slava. This is a tradition which started with the first serbs who converted to Christianity from other pagan religions. The tradition gave each family the chance to show what importance and affection a specific Saint did have on the family over many years. I´ve seen many close russian and even greek brothers/sisters adopt the tradition, because its core purpose is nothing outside that of the other churches. Veneration and bringing family together in worship is nothing only for serbians to claim. Some greeks have chosen to celebrate a Saint when one has his/her own name-day, which I also see as something beautiful and similar to celebrating Slava =)
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Offline Jovan

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #30 on: March 24, 2015, 06:03:00 PM »
So my only advice would be. Take contact with your parish priest which is serbian and ask him about the main Slavas. Even though we venerate all Saints not all could be celebrated with a liturgy on their day. Then chose someone who you feel have affected your orthodox life in a positive way. And then off you go with baking Slava bread next year brother :D
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Offline Pravoslavac

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #31 on: March 24, 2015, 06:27:28 PM »
Most specifically to any ethnically Serbian posters here,

I converted in a Serbian parish. It's fairly common there to start celebrating a Slava when you convert. Now I'm at Seminary and a convert friend of mine mentioned wanting to start the tradition, but he was afraid that people would think he was a poser or larper or something. I thought I'd ask the authentic Serbs what they thought.

Personally I always figured American Orthodoxy, as it developed, would be a mix of different traditions, and this is a beautiful one the Serbs were contributing. I've never had a Serb say anything negative about converts adopting the practice in person, but of course people are politer in public, and I've known several converts (myself included) who celebrate the family's patron saint every year.

So, Serbians, do you mind this? Do you feel like it's cultural approbation? Would you encourage converts to celebrate a Slava?

Interesting question. My Slava dates from early 14th century, Slava shows for sure how old my family line is.

Slava passes from father down to his sons, sons mostly start to celebrate it on their own, when they start family and move in to their own house.

If you ask me, talk with your priest, elect the saint you like, keep the celebration of the saint modest until you start the family, then you can organize feasts.

This tradition is very important, especially to elder Serbian men, if they have no sons, they often fall in to depression, because their Slava line ends with them.

Most common Slava saints are: saint George, saint John the Baptist, saint Nikolai, saint Archangel Michael, saint Mark, saint Sava, saint king Stefan of Dechan, and many others.

There is rumor that many Muslim families in Bosnia and South Serbia converted by Ottoman Empire (Blackmails and repression) still hold icons hidden of their Slavas, and when oldest man in their house is about to die, dying elder would tell his successor about the icon and Slava, and that goes like that for generations. Most Muslims deny that, but when their father is about to die, he crushes their world. lol
« Last Edit: March 24, 2015, 06:37:57 PM by Pravoslavac »
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Offline mike

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #32 on: March 27, 2015, 12:30:56 PM »
So my only advice would be. Take contact with your parish priest which is serbian and ask him about the main Slavas. Even though we venerate all Saints not all could be celebrated with a liturgy on their day. Then chose someone who you feel have affected your orthodox life in a positive way. And then off you go with baking Slava bread next year brother :D

Why would some saints not be celebrated with a DL (provided they do not fall on Wed/Fri on Lent but there would be the following year)?

Offline Dominika

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #33 on: March 27, 2015, 02:11:51 PM »
So my only advice would be. Take contact with your parish priest which is serbian and ask him about the main Slavas. Even though we venerate all Saints not all could be celebrated with a liturgy on their day. Then chose someone who you feel have affected your orthodox life in a positive way. And then off you go with baking Slava bread next year brother :D

Why would some saints not be celebrated with a DL (provided they do not fall on Wed/Fri on Lent but there would be the following year)?

He means that in most parishes there are no weekday Liturgies and only on the feastdays pf some most "important" (or rather: the most popular) saints (and even not always) Liturgies are celebrated. And of course this makes celebrating Slava more difficult, as one of the most important things in it is the participation in the Liturgy on Slava day (in my book with the Slava rite it's written even to attend Vespers; in some territories of Serbia - especially Kosovo - there are special rites on the eve of Slava.
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Offline podkarpatska

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #34 on: March 27, 2015, 11:21:52 PM »
I don't even know what you are talking about.

Me neither...??

Offline Czar Lazar

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Re: Converts Taking a Slava?
« Reply #35 on: Today at 12:43:27 AM »
Interesting thread.
I was a bit confused by the OP, did you convert to Serbian Orthodoxy or your are a convert to Orthodoxy that is now attending a Serbian Orthodox Church (Normally these things wouldnt really matter, but in this case it does). If converted to Serbian Orthodox, you must have a Slava, and it should be the day you were converted or if you had previous ancestors that were Orthodox you can "re-establish" the tradition (as I have). Next, after reading some of the posts, I wanted to point out a few things. Any convert to Serbian Orthodoxy not only can but should have a Slava --- this is part of the Serbian Faith. Next is that the Slava is much more than just food and friends, as has been pointed out, and is a very very serious custom and should not be undertaken without the seriousness being understood. This is not just a custom for you, but forever, for generations upon generations --- if you cannot hold to this, then don't start. Finally, a Serbian priest is of the most important for this event (I saw some are not in the Serbian Church but trying or wanting).....without a Serbian priest, this even is nearly impossible to be done in the proper fashion, especially for a convert.