Tomorrow, January 6, will be Serbian Christmas Eve. Technically, it's called Badnji Dan during the day, and in the evening Badnje Vece. If you guess that "Dan" means day and "Vece" evening from this, you'd be correct. But as I remember, we always just called it Badnje Vece, all day long, in my household growing up.
The photo shows my Badnje Vece table from 2005. Here's my blog post from that year.
I wrote a bunch about Serbian Christmas (Bozic) customs in an article several years ago. Here's a link to it on my online article archive:
Badnje Vece is a day of fasting from meat, fowl, dairy and egg products. But it's not a vegan day! The main course of the Badnje Vece dinner is fish.
The traditional menu for this meal is extensive. And, meat and dairy or no, it is as filling a repast as any I've experienced. In the early 1990s, my mother, who was born in 1920 in Ruma, a town in Srem, near Belgrade, described the Badne Vece meals she remembered from her youth. I wrote it down in my recipe notebook. Here's what she told me.
Badnje Vece menu
- Kolac on the table, but not eaten until Bozic proper
- Fruit – cooked prunes
- Posna pogaca (flatbread)
- Corba od patlidjan (tomato soup)
- Pasulj (kidney bean and onion salad)
- Rezanci c makom (noodles with ground poppy seed)
- Rezanci c badem (noodles with almonds)
- Riba (fish)
In addition, a friend told me that apples with nuts and honey are also traditional. Just slice the apples and put out a little bowl of ground walnuts and a little bowl of honey. These are put together on the fly, one at a time, by the eater – like chips and salsa. You pick up an apple slice and dip the end into the honey. Then you dip the honeyed, sticky end into the walnuts. Presto: you've prepared yourself one lovely bite of apple with nuts and honey.
The beans are delicious, and so easy to make. Here's the recipe my mother gave me. I doubt her household had canned beans in the 1920s, but it's possible, as her grandparents owned a general store. If there were commercial canned beans at that time, that's where they would be, after all.
(Kidney bean salad)
one can light red kidney beans, including the liquid
one small onion, diced (about 1/3 cup)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
several grindings of pepper
1/2 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
Mix all in a bowl.
Chill at least a few hours, or overnight.