During the season of festivity and celebrations, many Europeans chose Serbia to spend their holiday in and meet a new culture. Traditional welcoming of a New Year is being held in every major square in every town Serbia has. During the main day of New Year’s Eve, it is estimated that more than 600 000 visitors come to Serbia. It is recorded that many people who come to Serbia during the holidays come from the countries like UK, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Austria, Holland and other western countries.
Such trip to Serbia for the New Year is considered a prolonged weekend and a great fun for cheap. Different cultures celebrate the New Year’s Eve in different ways, where Serbian acceptive culture represents a plethora of numerous mixed traditions of Eastern and Western origin, therefore it is a familiar tradition with a twist.
Some of the visitors chose to relax in a couple main winter resorts based in the mountains and wait for the New Year in one of many „kafana“ that are at their disposal. For those that are more interested in a spectacle, they rally in the cities like Novi Sad, Belgrade, Niš and others. Pubs, restaurants, cafes and kafana are booked for two nights, many getting their reservations two weeks in advance. If you would like to have a great time in a closed space, make sure you’ve got your reservations in time, because you might not find a table on the day of New Year’s Eve.
If you, however, chose to join the crowd in the town square, expect a mass of a few thousand people of wich many are under age, young and older folk. Among Christmas lights and decorations that are in every corner and lamp post, there are various stands with souvenirs, fast food carts and traditional carts that sell boiled rakija (šumadijski čaj – shoumadeeyskee tsay), boiled wine with cinnamon and orange peel, popcorns, cotton candy, candied apples, baked chestnuts or if you are more of a sweet tooth person, you can find a lot of candy, licidersko srce (litsiderssko srtse – litsider heart) that many use as a souvenir rather than food.
The celebration is gathered mostly around the main stage where live music in a form of concert is taking place. The renowned singers and artist are there to keep you dancing and warm, while your loved ones are held in your arms. The concert lasts for the whole night until morning, where many singers change and keep the mood going. Belgrade is traditionally providing the elite singers and expensive artists in genre of pop and folk music, where smaller cities keep it modest with rock music and „smaller“ folk singers. If the town you are in is not of a sounding name, expect local bands and artist to appear on the stage. Live music can be found in smokey clubs, best Serbian DJs are on the beat, party is going fluently as drinks are filling up the glasses.
Here’s where everything goes wrong. Even before the clock hits midnight, a sound of firecrackers can startle the clueless visitor. After the New Year’s fireworks illuminate the sky, a barrage fire of firecrackers will make you deaf for a good twelve minutes. If anything, Serbs like their BOOMS. This tradition is somewhat a topic for the whole society that debates on should this be kept as a way of celebrating, and sides are deeply divided. The anti-firecracker side is using second degree burns, mangled fingers, blown off hands of the children, effect on dogs and domestic animals as a leverage to stop the annual shootout, while the pro-firecracker side ignores this pleas and keeps bursting their weaponry.
I must mention that this tradition was formerly honored with the hunting rifles discharged in the air and other devices that make loud cracking sound. Firecrackers were introduced later on when number of dead climbed after the stray bullets came back to the ground. Even today, shooting in the air is present in other celebratory occasions like matrimonies, baptism, engagements, sending off to the military and sometimes a birth of a baby. The meaning of that much noise has a double meaning in the Serbian culture. The first meaning represents an announcement to the world that something nice happened, while the other is done for religious reason and that is to scare off the evil spirits seeking to harm the family.
Even today, the debate on the firecrackers is led in the media, various organizations try to ban this type of custom, but all those prayers have fallen to deaf ears. The sound of firecracker silenced it.
It is also important to say that selling this things without a permit from the government is punishable by law and that many actions of upper handing the smugglers of pyrotechnical products were taken in order to suppress the illegal distribution. This actions are shadowed by the number of people that would often approach a passing children and offer them firecrackers. The times have changed and these people are less and less present in the streets as certified firecracker shops are being opened.
In fact, I have no standing grounds on this. I have nothing against it as long it is done properly and in the safe way. I remember my dad teaching me how to throw a firecracker and fire the firework we all call „squeaker“. Today’s firecracker manufacturing offers different types of this devices among I can list those named by the common folk: Black Mamba, Cannon Blast, Squeaker, Three-time-blast, Starblast etc.
Here are two videos of midnight celebration.
Now when you know what to expect and what to watch out from, make sure you have a great time celebrating New Year’s Eve. I wish you all happy New 2018.