Serbian Christmas Eve (Badnje Vece) Recipes

Most Serbians are Orthodox Christians who follow the Julian calendar. Thus, Christmas Eve is celebrated on Jan. 6 and Christmas on Jan. 7. In the old days, on Christmas Eve morning, Serbian fathers would take their eldest son to chop down (or in more recent times, buy) a young oak tree called a badnjak.

There is a festive badnjak burning at night and then a meatless meal which varies from family to family. Typically, wheat grass, that was planted on St. Nicholas Day, symbolizing a good harvest, and cesnica, which isn't eaten until Christmas morning, are on the table. Read more about how Serbians celebrate Christmas.

  • 01 of 09

    Serbian Christmas Bread Recipe - Cesnica or Bozicni Kolac

    Serbian Christmas Bread
    Česnica. David Bailey / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    The cesnica or bozicni kolac, also known as "money bread," is placed on the Christmas Eve table, but is not consumed until Christmas Day morning when it is broken, not cut, into serving pieces, with one extra for the polozajnik. Whoever gets the coin baked inside will be lucky for the rest of the year.

  • 02 of 09

    Serbian Dried Fruit Compote Recipe - Suvo Voce

    Dried Fruit Compote
    Dried Fruit Compote. © Wael Hamdan / Getty Images

    Sometimes the dried fruit compote or suvo voce is eaten before the meal begins, sometimes afterward as dessert. It's made with any combination of dried fruit, usually prunes, that have been cooked in water and sugar until they are tender. The liquid is as prized as the fruit. In Polish, this is known as kompot and the same recipe works for a Serbian Christmas Eve.

  • 03 of 09

    Serbian Meatless Soup Recipes - Posna Supa

    Serbian Meatless Bean Soup - Pasulj
    Pasulj. © 2010 Barbara Rolek licensed to, Inc.

    There is usually a soup course at the Christmas Eve meal. It might be corba od patlidzan (tomato soup), fish soup, or meatless pasulj (bean soup). Whichever soup is served, it is usually sopped up with Lenten or fasting pogacha bread (see below).

  • 04 of 09

    Serbian Lenten or Fasting Pogacha Bread Recipe

    Serbian Pogacha Bread
    Pogacha. Başak / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Since Serbians fast during Advent, meaning no eggs, dairy or butter, the bread served at the Christmas Eve dinner must be free of these ingredients. This Lenten or fasting pogacha fills the bill. It is used to sop up the soup course and to enjoy with ajvar, an eggplant-pepper spread. When not fasting, this pogacha recipe is made.

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  • 05 of 09

    Serbian Bean Dish Recipes

    Pasulj. Ivana Sokolović / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

    Beans, not only being a lucky food, are a perfect fasting food. Pasulj, a kind of kidney bean salad, is popular, as is prebranac, a baked bean dish.

  • 06 of 09

    Serbian Vegetable Casserole Recipes

    Serbian Vegetable Casserole or Djuvece
    Serbian Vegetable Casserole or Djuvece. © 2009 Barbara Rolek licensed to, Inc.

    Grains, vegetables, and spices combined in filling dishes like djuvece help round out an already-groaning table of fasting foods on Christmas Eve.

  • 07 of 09

    Serbian Lenten or Fasting Cabbage Rolls (Sarma) Recipe

    Yuval hoffman / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0

    For cabbage lovers, these vegetable sarma allow one to indulge in a favorite food while still following the church's fasting rules. They're also a great meat alternative for vegetarians.

  • 08 of 09

    Serbian Fasting or Lenten Dessert Recipes

    Lenten Cookies
    Lenten Cookie. © Steve Outram / Getty Images

    For dessert, along with dried fruit compote, fruit, and nuts, some families serve Lenten or fasting cookies so named because they are made with no eggs, milk or butter, which are prohibited during Advent (and Lent). Serbians and other Balkans share many of the same traditions and recipes as Greeks.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Serbian Hot Toddy Recipe - Vruca Rakija

    Serbian Rakija
    Serbian Rakija. © Vincent Paulic

    It wouldn't be Christmas Eve without vruca rakija, a potent hot drink made with whiskey, water, and sugar. Families guard their secret recipes for this traditional way of welcoming in Christmas and the Nativity of Christ. Some recipes call for spices to be added to the brew.