Why We Celebrate Christmases and New Year Twice in Serbia

Why Christmas and New Year are Celebrated TWICE in Serbia

by Magdalena Petrović Jelić


If you ever dreamed of celebrating two Christmases and two New Years, Serbia is the best place for that. Did you know that we have double holidays in Serbia?

Watch this video to find out what are Christmas and New Year traditions in Serbia. Learn why we double-celebrate and how to wish your friends a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year in Serbian language.

[transcript of the video]

Have you ever wondered why we have two Christmases and two New Years in Serbia?

I’m Magdalena from Serbian Courses, and in this video I’ll explain our a bit strange tradition to double celebrate Christmas and New Year in Serbia.


The two calendars actually cause double Christmas and New Year in Serbia

It all starts with calendars. We basically have two calendars. The new calendar or Gregorian (novi ili gregorijanski kalendar) is used in the entire state. And the old calendar (stari ili julijanski kalendar) is used by our church. That’s why we refer to the old calendar as „pravoslavni“ (orthodox) whereas we would refer to the new calendar as „katolički“ (catholic).


Religion in Serbia

Serbia is predominantly orthodox country. If you look at the data at Wikipedia, you’ll see that 85% of population are orthodox, and five percent are catholic. However, these 5 percent are concentrated in North Serbia, in Vojvodina. And in Vojvodina it’s very typical that in various cities both catholic and orthodox Christmases are celebrated.


The dates of Christmas and New Year holidays in Serbia

Between the two calendars we currently have 13 days of difference.

The Catholic Christmas (katolički Božić) is celebrated on December 25 (dvadeset petog decembra).

The Orthodox Christmas (pravoslavni Božić) is celebrated 13 days later, on January 7 (sedmog januara).

New Year’s Eve is celebrated on December 31 (trideset prvog decembra).

Orthodox or Serbian New Year (Pravoslavna ili Srpska nova godina) is celebrated on january 13 (trinaestog januara).


Holiday contradiction in Serbia: Catholic New Year and Orthodox Christmas

Since the vast majority of citizens in Serbia are orthodox, the Orthodox Christmas (on January 7) is the biggest or the most celebrated holiday, whereas the entire country will celebrate December 31 as New Year.

Why is this so?

Because Christmas (Božić) is a very traditional holiday and people started celebrating New Year’s Eve on December 31 after the World War 2.

Celebration of the New Year on December 31 started with communism and it’s not a religious holiday.

It’s a party that we celebrate with our friends. Whereas Christmas is religious, traditional and it’s all about family.


Christmas and New Year customs in Serbia

For New Years Eve we say doček Nove godine, which means like ‘waiting for new year’. Because we’re waiting for it to come.

For Christmas Eve we say Badnje veče.


For Christmas we also have badnjak, which is a branch of an oak tree, usually.

And for New Year we have novogodišnja jelka – we don’t say Christmas tree, it’s „New Year’s tree“ for us.


For Christmas we have Božić Bata (Christmas Guy) bringing presents to the children.

And for New Year’s eve we have Deda Mraz (Santa Claus or „Grandpa Frost“, as we put it.)


As you can see, Christmas and New Year in Serbia are two different traditions. Božić is orthodox and religious and traditional, whereas New Year is new, and it’s all about friends and partying.


Since the businesses in the country and the State itself use the new calendar, December 31 is considered the end of the old year and the January 1 is considered the beginning of a new year, together with the entire Western World.

And January 13 is Serbian or Orthodox New Year and it’s less celebrated. It is also celebrated, celebration is the same (you party with your friends, you have the New Year’s tree) but less people celebrate on that date.


How to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in Serbian

For the Catholic Christmas you will simple say: „Srećan Božić!“

The tradition of the Orthodox Christmas is to say „Hristos se rodi!“ (Christ was born). And the answer to this is „Vaistinu se rodi!“ (Indeed he was born).


How to wish a happy new year? We simply say: „Srećna Nova godina“ (happy New Year). And you can also say „Sve najbolje u novoj godini“ (I wish you all the best in the new year).


Srećan vam Božić i srećna Nova godina! Želim vam sve najbolje u novoj godini!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I wish you all best in the new year!


If you liked the video, please show it! Share it with your friends who might benefit from it, and help me spread the word about the Natural Serbian course!

Typical Serbian gifts: How to be a good guest in Serbia

Typical Serbian gifts: How to be a good guest in Serbia

by Magdalena Petrović Jelić


People talk a lot about how Serbs are good hosts, how they like their guests, how they are welcoming and friendly, etc. But, do you know how to be a good guest?

There are actually unwritten rules what we do as guests. Watch the video to learn what is expected from guests in Serbia and what are the most typical Serbian gifts we usually bring to our friends.

[transcript of the video about the typical Serbian gifts]

Hello and welcome to the Natural Serbian course!

Ja sam Magdalena, and today I want to teach you how to be a good guest in Serbia.

People talk a lot about how Serbians are good hosts, how they like their guests, how they are welcoming and friendly, etc.

But, do you know how to be a good guest?

There are actually unwritten rules about what we do as guests. It’s typical that we bring presents to our hosts.

But what kind of presents? What are typical Serbian gifts?


The most typical gift in Serbia is coffee.

Dvesta grama kafe – 200 grams of coffee is the most typical present that we bring to our friends or relatives when we are going to visit them.

100 grams is too little, more than 200 grams is too much, like if you really want to show off, so 200 grams is the most normal thing to bring to your friends or relatives in Serbia.


Another typical Serbian gift is chocolate.

We also commonly bring chocolate, čokolada, or anything sweet. But mostly chocolate. If you want to show off, or to show extra style, you will bring bombonjera (a fancy sweet-box). Bombonjera is very stilish.


Different gifts are typical for women, men and children in Serbia

For your lady host, domaćica, you can bring some flowers.

For your male host you will bring a bottle of drink, usually rakija or wine – these are the most typical. If you know what your host likes to drink, that’s what you’ll bring. Or you’ll just grab what you have at home and bring that.

If there are children, you can bring them chocolate or sweets, but nowadays there are ever more conscious parents and conscious mothers that don’t like giving sugar to their children, so they will prefer to get fruit: voće – banane, jabuke, mandarine, any kind of fruit. That’s really beautiful and as a mother, I would prefer that.


Visiting an ill friend? Here’s how to show your care!

Fruit is a typical gift we bring to a sick friend. If you have an ill friend and you’re going to visit them, bring a lot of fruit with you, that’s what we do.


Pick an old-fashioned typical Serbian gift for elders

If the people that you’re visiting are old, if you’re visiting grandmas and grandpas, then apart from coffee and chocolate, you can also bring ratluk. Ratluk (in English: Turkish delight) is another typical gift.


If you’re visiting your friends in Serbia, now you know what to do and how to be a good guest and return their hospitality.

Bring some chocolate to your friends. If you’re coming to my home, please bring some fruit instead.


These are the general guidelines for picking typical Serbian gifts.

Of course, you can be creative and bring anything you know your friends will like just to show that you care.


If you liked the video, if you like the course, please show it! Share it with your friends who might benefit from it, and help me spread the word about the Natural Serbian course!

Introductions in Serbian: What’s your name? It’s NOT what your book taught you!

Introductions in Serbian: What’s your name? It’s NOT what your book taught you!

by Magdalena Petrović Jelić


Learn all about the real-life introductions in Serbian: how to say what’s your name, how to introduce yourself and meet others in Serbia. How to say “nice to meet you” or “pleased to meet you”, and how to respond in Serbian language.


If you’re talking like this: Kako se zoveš? Ja se zovem Magdalena. Moje ime je Magdalena. – Stop!

This is NOT a natural Serbian way of introducing yourself in Serbian! Please, do not ask others “Kako se zoveš”!

We don’t really ask “Kako se zoveš?” when we’re talking to adults!


Watch this video to learn how to say what’s your name in Serbian and how to ask others about their names. Also, how to start a conversation with a new girl or guy you’ve just met in Serbia.

/Transcript of the video/


Zdravo! Ja sam Magdalena. A ti?

This video is about introductions: how to introduce yourself and how to ask someone else about their name – how to say what’s your name in Serbian.



What your book taught you about introductions in Serbian

First, let’s see what your book taught you. „Kako se zoveš?“ is a question to ask about someone’s name, „What’s your name?“ or literally „How are you named?“

The verb zvati se means ‘to be named’. It’s the same like in Italian (mi chiamo) or in Spanish (me llamo), in French (je m’appelle), and so on.

„Kako se zoveš?“ is a question about someone’s name.



Possible answers to the question “what’s your name” your Serbian book gave you are these:

„Zovem se Magdalena.“ „Ja se zovem Magdalena“

„Moje ime je Magdalena“

„Ja sam Magdalena“


So, your book taught you three options to say your name in Serbian language: „Zovem se …“, „Moje ime je…“ and „Ja sam…“.


Well, first of all, this question „Kako se zoveš?“ or „A kako se ti zoveš?“ is a question we ask children. It’s a kid’s question. We don’t ask adults, grownups, or even teenagers „Kako se zoveš?“ – only little children.


The second option to answer, “Moje ime je…”„Moje ime je Bond, Džejms Bond.“

That structure is imported from the English language, I believe, and it’s not natural. We don’t ever use it. We never say „Moje ime je…“


It is possible that someone asks: „Kako je vaše ime?“ (How’s your name?) or „Vaše ime?“ But that is in formal situations, like in a hospital, a nurse could ask a patient „Kako je vaše ime?“, or in court. We don’t actually say „Moje ime je…“.


Another possible question: „A vi ste…?“ (And you are…?) or „A ko ste vi?“ (And who are you?) that would be sort of rude. In this way you’re saying „Who the hell are you?“ Even though it’s formal, it shows despise towards the other person.



How we actually ask what’s your name in Serbian language


So how do we actually meet other people? How do we ask what’s your name in Serbian? There are few possibilities when we are in the situation to ask someone about their name.


The 1st situation to use introductions

The first situation how we meet other people is that we normally meet others through someone else. You know, there’s someone you know and someone you don’t know, and that’s how you meet a new person. And what happens is that we just shake hands and say only our names. Only names!

  • Magdalena
  • and the other person says their name, and we shake hands
  • we can end with: Drago mi je.”


The 2nd situation to meet someone in Serbia

The second possibility, the second option is meeting someone in a train, which is a bit old-fashioned, like let’s say on a plane, or in a situation where you’re waiting with another person for something to end, and you just start a small talk with them. Or if you’re hitting on a girl!

How this happens? We never approach a person asking about their name. That’s rude, don’t do that!

What we do is that we actually start a small talk. For example, if you’re in a waiting room with someone, first you start a small talk with them, you comment on the weather, on waiting, or anything that’s irrelevant, anything that’s not personal. And then if the person is interested, they will answer, and you will start talking to each other, and then if it gets serious and you see that the other person is really interested in talking to you, you will stop and say: „O, nismo se ni upoznali!“ (Oh, we haven’t even introduced) and then a handshake, „Ja sam Magdalena“, and the other person says their name.


The 3rd situation to ask what’s your name in Serbian

The third situation where you can ask someone about their name is when you meet someone that you’ve already met before but you forgot what their name was. Then you will say: „Izvini, kako se beše zoveš?“ (I’m sorry, what was your name again?) In this sentence the word „beše“ shows that we know we’ve heard it before, but we forgot. That’s what the word „beše“ stands for.

And I’m not going to… all right, maybe I could explain a little bit of grammar. That’s one of the very rare situations when we use „imperfekat“ – that’s verb to be in imperfect past tense.


All right guys, so please do not ask other people „Kako se zoveš?“, it’s  kind of rude.

Instead, you should offer your name and a handshake. And the other person will accept your handshake and tell their name in return.

After that you can follow with „Drago mi je“. But if the other person first says „Drago mi je“, do not repeat that! Instead, you shouold say „Takođe“ (likewise) or „I meni“ (to me too).


Ending a conversation in the Serbian language

There are three other options I want to tell you about today:

„Drago mi je što smo se upoznali“, and you can add some words to that to emphasize and say:

„Baš mi je drago što smo se upoznali“

„Mnogo mi je drago što smo se upoznali“


These three variants of one phrase are used at the very end of our conversation, so when we’re leaving. We’ve met someone new, we’ve talked to them, we’ve spent some time together, and then we’re shaking hands and we’re leaving, and we say „Drago mi je što smo se upoznali, ćao, vidimo se, čujemo se“ and other things that you’ve learned in the previous video about saying goodbye.

So that’s how you actually introduce yourself and ask what’s your name in Serbian – or when you don’t ask others about their names.

Thank you for watching the Natural Serbian videos, if you find them useful, if you find this video useful, please share it with your friends on the social networks that you use.

More than ”10 Ways to Say Hello in Serbia”

More than “10 Ways to Say Hello in Serbia”

by Magdalena Petrović Jelić

As I’m writing this, it’s been more than a year since we made and published this video about different ways to say “hello” in Serbian language. And it still brings many people to this website.

„Natural Serbian“ was such a great idea. It was fun to make, and…

Surprisingly exhausting!

Because I’m a teacher, not a YouTuber!

But I think the concept was good, and I’ll get back to it once I get tired of making these serious learning materials.


Publishing this video has brought me valuable insights:

  1. There are lots of idle kids on YouTube, and
  2. I’m getting old!


Seriously, some comments people left made me realize a few new things about how we say hello in Serbia:

1.Shortened greetings that I mentioned in the video (‘bro jutro, ‘bar dan and ‘bro veče) are something my grandmother, and sometimes my father used to say. It’s almost vanished!

2. „Pozdrav“ actually became much more common in the last 10 years. It sneaked into our spoken language from the written form, and now it is actually quite common – especially among the young.

3. Some kids mentioned „eee!“ – but it’s not a greeting, I don’t give them that. It’s only an interjection, like “hej”.

4. If you have very patriotic friends, they will want you to know one more greeting: „Pomoz’ bog“ or „Pomaže bog“ (meaning “May God help you”). But it’s very, very old and its usage nowadays can only be intentional and not spontaneous – if you know what I mean.


How to say hello in Serbian – basics first!

Anyway, If you’ve just started learning Serbian, you should first take a look at this newer video to learn basic Serbian greetings and expressions, and then continue with the old video for more advanced and fun greetings.

(The transcript is still under the second video.)


Now you’re ready to go beyond the common “Dobar dan”, “Zdravo” and other basic Serbian greetings.



In this video I’m giving you 10 different ways we say Hello in Serbian and explain when to use which.


How do you greet people in Serbia? How should you answer to their greetings? What should you say if you meet someone twice in one day?

Welcome to the Natural Serbian Course, the best place to learn real Serbian.


Ja sam Magdalena i danas ću vas naučiti 10 načina da kažete „zdravo“ na srpskom.

I’m Magdalena and today I’ll teach you 10 ways to say hello in Serbian.


The most common ways to say hello in the Serbian language

Let’s start with the greetings I’m sure you already know. Dobro jutro, dobar dan, dobro veče.

You know what they mean: dobro jutro (good morning), dobar dan (good day or good afternoon), dobro veče (good evening). But do you know exactly when to say which?

  • Dobro jutro – is a greeting we say when we wake up and until about 10 or 11 AM. Do not say „Dobro jutro“ late, because if you say it late, we’ll know that you woke up late.
  • Dobar dan – After about 10 or 11 o’clock, you can start saying „dobar dan“, in formal situations and use this greeting throughout the day, until:
  • Dobro veče – When do we start using „Dobro veče“? Well, it depends on the season, because once when it starts getting dark, you can safely start saying „Dobro veče“. So, in winter it will be about 5 or 6 pm, and in summer it will be after 7 or 8 pm.

These three greetings are sometimes shortened, so you can also hear:

bro jutro, ‘bar dan, ‘bar veče or ‘bro veče.

The three greetings are formal, and „Dobro jutro“ is both formal and informal, so we use it every day in our family: „Dobro jutro!“ after waking up.


The informal ways to say hello in the Serbian language

Serbian informal greeting is Zdravo! It actually means „healthy“, so you’re wishing someone good health when you say it.

We also use Ćao! which borrowed from italian (ciao), like in many languages.

You can even double those: „Zdravo zdravo!“ „Ćao ćao!“, and we usually do that with acquaintances. We just acknowledge them in the street, to whom we do not intend to say anything more than a simple greeting.


Pozdrav! This is a greeting that actually means ‘a greeting’, „Pozdrav“. It’s usually used by men, mostly in writing, in emails, chats or messages. Often written as „poz“ or „pozzzz“ for an extra emphasis. However, some people also say it, especially to a group: Pozdrav svima! (hello everybody) Pozdrav, ljudi! (hello people). And, again, it’s mostly men who use it.


And here comes my favorite way we say hello in Serbian:

It’s just one simple question used as a greeting among friends and family: „De si!“ If we translate it literally, it means „where are you”. However, if we want to ask someone where they are, we will use the full form: „Gde si?“, the full word „gde“. And, on the other hand, if we want to say a greeting (like: where are you, I’m so happy to see you, where have you been for so long), then we will say „de si“, without the initial sound „g“: „de si“ or „di si ti“.

We can say „de“ or „di“.

In some regions, like Montenegro and Bosnia, you will also hear „đe si!“, „đe“.

This greeting is often combined with „ti“, or „de ste vi“, or with „bre“, or with personal names or nicknames.

So, we’ll get: „De si ti!“ „De si bre!“ „De si bre ti!“ „De si bre ti, Marija!“

This simple question-greeting implies that you haven’t seen someone for a while, that you’ve missed them and that you’re happy to see them again. I will say it to a friend I haven’t seen for a few days or weeks, but I will also say it to my son after his nap. It is very used and very widespread.


More advanced ways to say hello in the Serbian language

Now, I’m gonna give you an extra insider tip: If you meet someone again the same day, do not repeat the same greeting! If you say „dobar dan“ and after a few hours „dobar dan“ again to me, I would think „Wow, this person doesn’t even remember that we’ve already met today.“ You can say something like „O, opet ti!“ (oh, it’s you again) which is quite informal. Obviously, you will say „o, opet vi“ if you’re addressing to more than one person, or even if you’re addressing formally to someone.

If you’re entering a store or a post office again, you can say „izvinite, opet ja“ (excuse me, it’s me again). You can also be formal with „Dobar dan / Dobro veče još jednom“ (Good day/evening once again).

One more way to say hello in Serbian

And the last greeting, and my personal favorite, is „Treći put častiš“. This means: „if we meet for the third time, you’re buying me a drink“. That’s something we’ll always say if we accidentally meet a friend for the second time in the street, and there’s almost a small competition who will say this first: „Ha, treći put častiš“ (Ha, you’re buying me a drink next time that we meet).

However, it doesn’t actually happen that we really do meet for the third time and that we actually have that drink, but it’s a really common thing to say.


And to summarize, let’s list all the greetings we use to say hello in Serbian:

  1. Dobro jutro – ‘bro jutro
  2. Dobar dan – ‘bar dan
  3. Dobro veče – ‘bar veče, ‘bro veče
  4. Zdravo – zdravo svima – zdravo zdravo
  5. Ćao – ćao ćao
  6. Pozdrav! Pozdrav svima! Pozdrav, ljudi!
  7. De si! De ste vi! Di si ti! Di ste!
  8. Opet ti! Opet vi! Opet ja! Izvinite, opet ja.
  9. Dobar dan još jednom! Dobro veče još jednom!
  10. Treći put častiš


A ti? Kako ti pozdravljaš svoje prijatelje? How do you greet your friends?

You can share your experience and ask questions in the comments bellow.

If you liked this video or found it useful, you can share it with your friends on Youtube, Facebook, and other social networks. Allow your friends to benefit from it, and help me spread the word about the Natural Serbian Course. Hvala puno!

Learn how to blend in with your Serbian friends and how to sound really Serbian!



How to say ”no” politely and stop overeating without offending your hosts

How to say no politely and stop overeating without offending your hosts

by Magdalena Petrović Jelić


Maybe you know exactly what is slatko and what to do with it. If you don’t, you will find out on this page. But do you know how to refuse food or drink without offending anybody? How to say no politely in Serbia?

The Serbs can be very insisting when offering food or drink to their guests. Read on or watch the video to learn how to deal with that!


Dobro došli! Ja sam Magdalena.

Welcome! I’m Magdalena and I will be your teacher in the Natural Serbian Course.

In this video I will explain three things to you:

  • What is “slatko” and what exactly you should do with it
  • How to politely say NO in Serbian and stop overeating or overdrinking, without offending anybody
  • How to learn other little tricks that will help you act and sound genuinely Serbian and impress your Serbian friends!


Šta je to slatko?

Slatko means “sweet”. You can use it as an adjective.

(Čokolada je slatka. Sladoled je sladak.)

As a noun, slatko is the name for the traditional Serbian dessert made of different kinds of fruit cooked in a thick sugary syrup. Think of it as a marmelade made of whole fruits or big chunks of fruits. The same kind of sweet is made in Greece as well.

It is a tradition to serve this sweet to the guests in a small crystal bowl, or simply in a jar where it’s normally kept, with a glass of water. Here’s what you’re supposed to do: take the teaspoon (uzmete kašičicu) and take one mouthful (i uzmete jedan zalogaj). Then you should drink some water (onda popijete malo vode) and leave the little spoon in the glass, if there’s no other place reserved for that. Sometimes the spoons are in a special container, like this, where clean teaspoons are held on one side, and used spoons are put on the other side, but it’s always the safest to put the spoon you’ve used in your glass of water.

If you want to take more slatko, then you should take another clean teaspoon.


Kako reći NE? (How to say NO in Serbian)

If you have friends or family in Serbia, Bosnia or Croatia, you’ve noticed how insistent they can be in offering food and drink, and making you take some more (još malo), another glass (još jednu čašu), another piece (još jedno parče).

You don’t want to offend anybody, and you don’t want to harm your body. How to reject them with no offence? You want to be firm and polite, and you want to learn a few simple words: Ne mogu. It means “I can’t”. So it’s not your fault, it’s not that you don’t want or that you don’t like what they’re offering, you just can not eat or drink.

Ne mogu.

Stvarno ne mogu. (I really can’t)

Ne mogu više. (I can’t /eat or drink/ any more)


How to learn other tricks that will help you act and sound genuinely Serbian and impress your Serbian friends?

If you liked what I explained here and if you want to learn more about the Serbian language, lifestyle and customs, you’re in the right place: enroll in the Natural Serbian Course!

As a welcoming gift, I will send you my grandma’s secret recipe for “slatko od smokava”, in Serbian AND English.

Why learning about Serbian lifestyle really matters

Why learning about Serbian lifestyle really matters

An anecdote about an Englishman eating “slatko” 

by Magdalena Petrović Jelić


Have you ever been in a situation where you simply didn’t know how to react or how to answer to a local in Serbia? That’s why learning about Serbian lifestyle is really important when learning Serbian language.

One of the crucial elements of the Serbian lifestyle is the hospitality ritual. There are many formulas and expected behaviors for guests and hosts in Serbia. On this page you can learn about expected gifts that you can bring as a guest to a Serbian host.

But, do you know what to do when your Serbian hosts put this in front of you?


Traditions Serbian Fig Sweet

Image from a recipe site “Torte i kolači” (in Serbian language)


This lovely anecdote about an Englishman eating “slatko” in Belgrade is fun. But it also illustrates how important it is to learn about culture and customs alongside with the Serbian language.

The Serbian lifestyle is something that might confuse you, if you don’t understand it, or that will make you love the language even more.

Watch the video to learn more!

An Englishman and a Serbian grandma


Do you know what to do when your Serbian hosts put this in front of you?

Let me tell you an anecdote. There was this very polite Englishman that came to visit Serbia. He knew a little Serbian from his textbook and could manage a basic conversation, but he knew almost nothing about Serbian everyday life and customs.

Back then there were no Natural Serbian courses. Only did he know that one must eat and drink what’s offered in order not to offend the hosts.

So he rents an apartment from an old lady, and when he visits her to pay the rent, she insists that he comes in na čašicu razgovora, for a small talk, that’s so typical.

Now, being curious, he accepts the invitation and comes in. What happens next is that she puts this (a jar and a teaspoon) on the table in front of him and goes to the kitchen to make some coffee.

And he takes one mouthful.

Oh my god! This tastes sooo good!

And he takes another mouthful, and another, and he keeps eating…

When the lady’s back from the kitchen with their coffee, he had already eaten like a half of the jar.

Afterwards, he was sick and she was offended.


So do you know precisely what to do if your hosts put this (a jar and a teaspoon) in front of you?


Serbian Courses are hosting this free course called Natural Serbian.

It is the only course that teaches you real-life Serbian expressions and customs!

Do you want to find out the answer about slatko? (ovo je slatko od smokava)

Firstly, please share this with your friends and help me spread the word about the Natural Serbian course (Lajkujte i šerujte, hvala puno!), and then go to this page where I’ll show you: