How to Survive a Serbian Easter Extravaganza
I don’t know much about a lot of things, but I have learned a few valuable lessons since marrying the Serb. More than a few of these lessons concern Serbian holidays: New Year’s, Slava and Easter are all unknown quantities for a semi-wiccan WASP from the prairies. Here are some essential guidelines for making it through the day:
My Easter morning began at five o’clock, when my family joined our daughter’s hippie nursery school class on the shore of Lake Ontario. Every year they hold an enchanting celebration that involves watching the sunrise, singing some songs and hunting for eggs (not the chocolate kind). It was an amazing start to the day, but the day felt like it should’ve been over by four o’clock that afternoon.
Lesson: Pacing is everything – stock up on Red Bull or nap in the car between visits.
Serbs love their slippers. When you remove your shoes in their home, you will immediately be handed a pair of slippers, regardless of your outfit. God help you if you refuse their slippers and you’re wearing nylons.
Lesson: Stick with basic black – it goes with everything.
It’s a very long day, full of chocolate, juice boxes and other hazards. As anal vigilant as I am, accidents are unavoidable. Yesterday was a prime example: my three-year-old wet her pants and I was caught unprepared. Luckily, she fit into our cousin’s rolled-up leggings. Our twenty-something cousin with the perfect hair.
Lesson: Don’t stand next to skinny cousin for photos.
Rakija (pron. rak-ee-ya) is a Balkan brandy that could remove rust from a bumper. Despite my protests, I’m always given an overflowing glass. In eleven years of marriage, I’ve probably had less than a full shot.
Lesson: Take a few fake sips, excuse yourself from the table, and immediately apply a soothing balm to your mouth.
Hauling a Serbian/English dictionary to family gatherings is uncouth and tiring, so I rely on key phrases to get me through the day: My husband is beautiful and I smell stinky farts are sure to get a laugh from the aunties.
Lesson: Do not utter any other words my husband has taught me – if I said them in Sarajevo, I’d be arrested.
I’ve been trying to convince one aunt to open a bakery because her cookies are like nothing I’ve ever tasted. But they’re just brought out to cut the sweetness of the cakes (yes, plural). Dessert is its own food group in the Serbian diet and if you refuse to partake – as I did yesterday – they look at you like Andrea Martin in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when she learns the fiancé is a vegetarian (“What you mean you no want no meat?”).
Lesson: Take some cookies on your plate and then wait for the three-year-old to come by and pilfer them.
Which brings us to the final lesson, perhaps the most important one of all:
Wear stretchy pants
Meat, cheese and bread are the staples of Serbian cuisine – combine these with homemade hooch and decadent desserts, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for splitting seams.
Lesson: Don’t eat for a few days before your visit, buy some TUMS and enjoy the ride.