Easter in Serbia: the Diglossic Holiday

by Magdalena Petrović Jelić

Easter in Serbia: Revealing the Diglossic Holiday 1

Easter in Serbia is a very fun experience. We boil and color eggs, usually on Good Friday. There are traditional methods, involving plants, wax and onion peels, and then there are the modern dyes and stickers. We use different methods because the Easter eggs in Serbia must be multicolored.

Watch this video about how we color eggs for Easter in Serbia. It’s in Serbian, so don’t forget to turn on the English captions, if you need.

The first red egg is the “čuvarkuća” (house guard). We put it on a shelve to guards our home until the next Easter, when it’s replaced. Then on Easter, we use the colored eggs in a jolly competition: We crack them, and the strongest egg wins!  

There is also a special greeting we use on Easter only, and it’s similar to the Christmas greeting. But the Easter greeting is a bit controversial. And I bet you’ve been unsure how to say it correctly.

I wrote about why we have this linguistic vacillation in my article that was first published in the “American Srbobran” on April 3, 2019. Here I’m sharing it with you entirely:    

 

The Diglossic Easter in Serbia

[I recommend reading on a big screen for comparing the two languages in two columns. On mobile, scroll down for Serbian.]

There are two words that people in Serbia use to refer to Easter: Uskrs and Vaskrs. There are two forms of the verb to resurrect as well: uskrsnuti and vaskrsnuti. To make it more complex, the official terms of our church are Voskresenije and voskresnuti.

All these forms reflect the diglossia that Serbs have had for centuries. On one side we have the vernacular Serbian, with oral tradition and folk literature. On the other side we have Old Church Slavonic, as the first literary and liturgical Slavic language, with written tradition. It had different recensions, created as the writers incorporated elements of their vernacular into it. The Serbian Church had used Serbian recension of Church Slavonic (Serbo-Slavonic) ever since the Serbs took Slavic literacy in the 10th century.

In the second half of the 18th century, when the Serbs fled from the Ottomans and settled in Vojvodina, the Russian influence became strong. As Russian books were used by the Serbs in Austro-Hungarian Empire, Serbo-Slavonic was replaced by the Russian recension of Church Slavonic (Russo-Slavonic).

That’s how a new language came into use: Slavonic-Serbian. It was a mixture of Russo-Slavonic with Serbian vernacular. This sublime language came out of use in the Romantic era, as the vernacular language became official and the writing system was reformed. However, Russo-Slavonic remains to this day the official language of our church.

For this reason we have the vernacular expressions Uskrs and uskrsnuti that belong to the modern standard, as well as Serbo-Slavonic Vaksrs and vaskrsnuti, that is used among the people, and Russo-Slavonic Voskresenije and voskresnuti, that is used by our church.

The Serbian Orthodox Church celebrates Easter on April 28th this year. On this day we crack eggs we colored on Good Friday and greet each other with a special greeting that celebrates the dogma of resurrection: „Christ is risen!” And answer: „Truly he is risen!“

There is the Serbo-Slavonic variant of this greeting: „Hristos vaskrse“ – „Vaistinu vaskrse“.

And there is the Russo-Slavonic variant of it: „Hristos voskrese“ – „Vaistinu voskrese“.

The modern Serbian form of this greeting would be: „Hrist uskrsnu“ – „Zaista uskrsnu“; but it’s never used.

Since the common people are not familiar with the church language, you’ll hear other irregular variants of the greeting: „Hristos vaskrs“; „Hristos vaskrese“, „Hristos voskrse“.

So, how to greet your family on Easter in Serbia? Here’s my advice: if you are the first to greet, choose one of the correct forms „Hristos vaskrse“ or „Hristos voskrese“ and add: „Happy Easter!“ But if you are answering, choose the same form the other person used and be polite, even if that means using the wrong form: „Vaistinu vaskrs“, „Vaistinu vaksrese“, „Vaistinu voskrese“.

Let’s spread love and respect, rather than the linguistic correctness, on this great day that is in some places in Serbia still called Veligdan (The Great Day).

Dve su reči koje ljudi u Srbiji koriste za ovaj praznik: Uskrs i Vaskrs. Takođe imamo i dva glagola: uskrsnuti i vaskrsnuti. Da stvar bude još složenija, zvanični termini naše crkve su Voskresenije i voskresnuti.

Svi ovi oblici odražavaju diglosiju koju Srbi vekovima imaju. S jedne strane imamo narodni srpski jezik, sa usmenom tradicijom i narodnom književnošću. S druge strane imamo staroslovenski, kao prvi književni i liturgijski jezik, sa pisanom tradicijom. Taj jezik je imao različite recenzije, nastale tako što su pisci u njega ugrađivali elemente svog narodnog jezika. Srpska crkva je koristila srpsku recenziju staroslovenskog (srpskoslovenski) otkako su Srbi primili slovensku pismenost u 10. veku.

 

U drugoj polovini 18. veka, kada su Srbi pobegli od Osmanlija i naselili se u Vojvodini, Ruski uticaj je ojačao. Kako su Srbi u Austrougarskom carstvu koristili ruske knjige, srpskoslovenski je zamenila ruska recenzija staroslovenskog (ruskoslovenski).

Tako je jedan novi jezik došao u upotrebu: slavjanoserpski. To je bila mešavina ruskoslovenskog sa srpskim narodnim jezikom. Ovaj uzvišeni jezik je izašao iz upotrebe u eposi romantizma, kada je narodni jezik postao zvanični, a pravopis reformisan. Međutim, ruskoslovenski je do danas ostao zvanični jezik naše crkve.

Zbog toga imamo narodne izraze Uskrs i uskrsnuti, koji pripadaju modernom standardu, kao i srpskoslovensko Vaksrs i vaskrsnuti, koje se koristi u narodu, i ruskoslovensko Voskresenije i voskresnuti, koje koristi naša crkva.

 

Srpska pravoslavna crkva ove godine slavi Uskrs 28. aprila. Na taj dan lupamo jaja koja smo obojili na Veliki petak i pozdravljamo se naročitim pozdravom koji proslavlja dogmu uskrsnuća.

Postoji srpskoslovenska varijanta ovog pozdrava: „Hristos vaskrse“ – „Vaistinu vaskrse“.

A postoji i njegova ruskoslovenska varijanta „Hristos voskrese“ – „Vaistinu voskrese“.

Na savremenom srpskom jeziku, ovaj pozdrav bi glasio: „Hrist uskrsnu“ – „Zaista uskrsnu“; ali to se nikad ne koristi.

Pošto narod ne poznaje crkveni jezik, čućete i druge nepravilne varijante ovog pozdrava: „Hristos vaskrs“; „Hristos vaskrese“, „Hristos voskrse“.

Dakle, kako ćete pozdraviti svoju porodicu na Uskrs u Srbiji? Evo mog saveta: ako pozdravljate prvi, izaberite jednu od dve ispravne forme „Hristos vaskrse“ or „Hristos voskrese“ i dodajte: „Srećan Uskrs!“ Ali ako odgovarate, izaberite istu formu koju je druga osoba upotrebila i budite ljubazni, i ako to znači da ćete upotrebiti nepravilan oblik: „Vaistinu vaskrs“, „Vaistinu vaksrese“, „Vaistinu voskrese“.

Hajde da širimo ljubav i poštovanje, pre nego jezičku ispravnost, na ovaj veliki dan, koji se ponegde u Srbiji još naziva i Veligdan.