Nativity of Christ – Christmas
The birth of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.
“And when the time was fulfilled, God sent his only begotten Son” (Gal 4, 4) to save the human race. And when nine months have passed since the annunciation, which was announced by Archangel Gabriel to the Most Holy Virgin in Nazareth, saying: “Rejoice, gracious… here you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Lk 1, 18 and 31). At that time, an order went out from Caesar Augustus, to enumerate all the people in the Roman Empire. According to that commandment, everyone should go to their own town and register there. That is why Joseph the Righteous came with the Most Holy Virgin to Bethlehem, the city of David, because both were from the royal line of David. So as many people gathered in that small town for the census, Joseph and Mary could not find accommodation in any house, which is why they took shelter in a shepherd’s cave, where the shepherds kept their sheep. In that cave, on the night between Saturday and Sunday, the Blessed Virgin gave birth to the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ. And having given birth to Him without pain, just as she conceived Him without sin, from the Holy Spirit and not from man, she herself wrapped Him in linen diapers, worshiped Him as God and laid Him in the manger. Then the righteous Joseph also approached, and he worshiped Him as the divine fruit of a virgin’s womb. Then the shepherds came from the field, sent by the angel of God, and worshiped Him as the Messiah and Savior. And the shepherds heard a multitude of God’s angels singing: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will among men” (Lk 2, 14). At that time, three wise men from the East arrived, guided by a miraculous star, with their gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh, and they bowed down to Him as the King of kings, and presented Him with their gifts (Mt 2). Thus came into the world the One, whose coming was foretold by the prophets, was born as it was prophesied: of the Most Pure Virgin, in the city of Bethlehem, from the knee of David according to the flesh, at a time when there was no longer a king from the tribe of Judah in Jerusalem, but Herod reigned a foreigner. After many of His prefigures and foreshadowings, emissaries and heralds, prophets and righteous men, sages and kings, He, Lord of the world and King of kings, appeared at last to perform the work of human salvation, which His servants could not perform. To him be eternal glory and praise. Amen.
Christmas lunch is the most festive lunch of the year, attended by the whole family and all household members. Since it ends the forty-day fast, lunch is greasy. It starts around noon or a little earlier, after returning from the liturgy. The host pronounces Peace of God, Christ is born. (Домаћин изговара Мир Божји, Христос се роди.) Česnica is crushed, distributed to the household and lunch is served. Lunch consists of česnica, starters (cream or cheese that goes well with garlic, cured meats), salad (Russian, mimosa), fragrant homemade soup, sarma (which is almost mandatory), roast (chicken and turkey should be avoided) and cakes and cookies. Of course, not all of this is mandatory, the important thing is that what you put on the table is prepared with love for the Lord and the household.
Česnica is prepared on Christmas Day or early in the morning on Christmas Day, according to various customs. It is basically bread made from wheat flour with the purest water. The name česnica may come from the word čest (honor) that we give to Jesus Christ or from the fact that it breaks into as many pieces as there are household members. Insert a coin or some other object into the dough, which can be used for this purpose year after year, preferably of precious metal because it is our gift to the newborn Christ. At the beginning of the Christmas lunch, after the prayer, the host with one family member turns the garlic clove three times clockwise, and then the household breaks the bread among themselves. It is believed that a household member who finds a new coin will be particularly successful and happy in the coming year.
You can make česnica from half a kilo of soft flour, half a pack of yeast dissolved in lukewarm water, one tablespoon of cooking oil, a little salt and a little water to pour into the dough. If you want it without yeast, then use a sharp flour. Mix everything well with lukewarm water, like any bread or Slavonic cake. The coin is pressed into the dough and the dough is left to rise. When it grows well, we put it in a hot oven.