The 6th of May is on the one hand the most meaningful feast for the Roma, who celebrate the return of springtime with a big festival and on the other hand, a very important Slava called Đurđevdan (ˈdʑuːrdʑeʋda:n) or in the language of the Roma (H)ederlezi. 

On this day, Belgrade’s streets are full of gypsy trumpet orchestras which play the traditional folk song Ederlezi/Đurđevdan in a loop. The song got really famous shortly after Emir Kusturica’s Time of the Gypsies (1988) movie (one of my favourite movies by the way), where he showed the Ederlezi celebration (Video below). Nowadays, it exists in several languages. The original Roma song is about a poor orphan boy watching sadly the others celebrating.

There were a lot of traditions connected to this holiday, but nowadays people in cities  usually go to a church, lighten up a candle and go to a friend’s Slava, where they eat, drink and sing. In front of the main churches, one can find elderly women selling handmade flower girdles, which people put on their heads or on the front door to protect their home. In the past, women and girls used to make these girdles from lilies of the valley on their own, while the whole family collected green branches in a forest on the evening before Đurđevdan in order  to decorate the house. This was supposed to bring health, wealth and a productive agriculture.

People used to go to a forest and prepare a picnic in the early morning. Young people decorated each other with flowers in order to stay healthy and become successful. At the end of the day they threw the flower girdles into the river and made big fires all over the village to protect themselves from witches who appeared on exactly this day according to a legend.

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