Yesterday, on the 6th of May was an important day: Đurđevdan or in the language of the Roma: (H)ederlezi.

On the 6th of May is the most meaningful Roma festival and a very important Slava called Đurđevdan (ˈdʑuːrdʑeʋda:n). Slava (lit. celebration) is a Serbian Orthodox tradition of the ritual glorification of one’s familiy’s patron saint. Every year the family celebrates the Slava on the saint’s feast day, where they invite their families and closest friends. Two years ago, this religious tradition became an UNESCO Cultural Heritage.

St. George, who is pictured as a man riding a horse and killing a dragon, was a martyr who died for his faith. Đurđevdan is one of the most meanigful feasts for Roma, who mark the beginning of the summer half-year with a big festival. The interesting thing is, that not only the christian population of Roma celebrate Đurđevdan, but also muslims. People believe that this celebration brings joy and wealth. Candles, green branches and “healwater” are the typical symbols of life and spring.

There are a lot of traditions, which differ from region to region. I will list a few of them:

In the evening before Đurđevdan, people go to the forests and collect some branches and decorate the whole house with it. This brings health and a productive agriculture. Women and girls make girdle of flowers out of lilies of the valley and put it on the front door to protect their home. The gridle has to stay there until the next year.

They say, that one should not sleep too long on the St. George’s Day, because you will have headache for the rest of the year. In the early morning, people go to a forest and prepare a picnic. The traditional meal is lamb on this day. Young people decorate each other with flowers in order to stay healthy and get success.  At the end of the day they throw the gridles into the river. A legend says, that on this day a lot of witches appear. So, villager light big fires to protect their village from those.

In the city, people 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 a church, you will see old women selling handmade flower girdles and lilies of the valley.

This is an insert of Emir Kusturica’s movie “Time of the Gipsies” showing the Roma celebration of Đurđevdan and the famous Ederlezi song.