January 6 is celebrated as Christmas Eve in the tradition of most Eastern Orthodox churches, including Serbian, which is my heritage.
Technically, in Serbian this day is called Badnji dan during the day, and in the evening, Badnje Veče. If you guess that “Dan” means day and “Veče” evening from this, you’d be correct. But as I remember, we always just called it Badnje Veče, all day long, in my household growing up.
The photo shows a typical Badnje Veče table at my house
Badnje Veče 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 Veče 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 Veče meals she remembered from her youth. I wrote it down in my recipe notebook. Here’s what she told me.
Badnje Veče menu
- Kolac on the table, but not eaten until Bozic proper
- Kompot – compote of cooked prunes and other dried fruit
- Posna pogaca (flatbread)
- Corba od patlidjan (tomato soup)
- Salata od pasulja (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.