Sretenje – the meeting day of summer and winter, history, church heritage and folk customs

Историја и култура Срба кроз вековеУчење српског језикаУченици из дијаспоре
14 Feb 2023

After the disintegration of the SFRY, Serbia as an independent country set out to establish its own public holidays. Since its establishment in 2002, the Statehood Day of our republic is celebrated every year on February 15 and 16.

What do we associate these dates with?

First of all, it is the event that happened in Orašac, when the First Serbian Uprising against the Turkish colonial influence in the Balkans broke out. The uprising was led by Đorđe Petrović, called Karađorđe (which means black George in Turkish).

Then, it is the day when the first Constitution of the Principality of Serbia,  which was very modern and liberal at that time, was adopted and ratified in the then Serbian capital – Kragujevac.

Although nowadays these two holidays are associated with these dates, both events took place on the Meeting of the Lord Day, a Christian holiday celebrated by our church, according to the Julian calendar on the 2nd and 3rd  of February. That was the calendar valid in our country at that time, while today it is only observed by the Serbian Orthodox Church.


                                                                                               photo taken from:

Why is Sretenje important?

First, the importance of this event is reflected in the conflict with a huge colonialist power and the liberation from the colonial influence that the Ottoman Empire exercised on the territory of the Balkan Peninsula in the very heart of Europe. It was the beginning of the creation of a modern and democratic Serbian state. Many historians claim that the said event of 1804 is much more significant as it marked the beginning of the deliverance from colonizers, being the first event of its kind in the Balkan Peninsula. It was a beacon that lit the way for other peoples in this area to be freed from colonizers. Of course, the peripheral geographical position of the Serbian colony in the Ottoman Empire also played a big role in this.

From this date forward, our country began to experience an instant history and in just 100 years went along the way that other European countries took centuries to pass. We ended up freeing ourselves from the colonizers and creating key state-building institutions such as the army, state administration and culture.


                                                                                     Fighting in the Belgrade Pashaluk


How did everything unfold?

In what was then Belgrade (Belgrade Pashaluk), a terrible slaughter of princes took place. The Turks killed many prominent and well-known people among the representatives of the Serbian people.


                                                                            Miloš Obrenović and Đorđe Petrović – Vozhd Karađorđe


Those who survived, organized a gathering in a small town of Orašac at Sretenje in 1804. The meeting place was the Marić’s ravine.

Soon, the uprising was suppressed because the new Serbian prince, Miloš Obrenović, settled with the colonizing authorities. By order of the Serbian prince himself, the leader of the Uprising, Đorđe Petrović – Vozhd Karađorđe, was killed, and his severed head was sent to the sultan in Istanbul.

Many documents about the first Serbian uprising are gone, and the first writings appeared only at the end of the 19th century under the strong censorship of Miloš Obrenović himself. It is recorded that the prince threatened Vuk Karadzic himself, that he would be severely punished if he was to publish anything praiseworthy about Black Đorđe (George).

Modern liberal Serbian Constitution

The great Serbian writer Stanislav Vinaver indicated that the Serbian constitution of that time marked the beginning of the struggle for human rights in this part of Europe. At that point, the peasants were also given the right to take ownership of small estates. This was a great contribution by way of which Vozhd Karađorđe began building the libertarian Serbian statehood. It was only after the verification by Prince Miloš Obrenović that this contribution of Karađorđe established Serbia as a state of free peasants. Meanwhile slavery was still present in America, wheras in Russia there was a strict serfdom system. The Constitution, which was adopted in 1835 at the Sretenje Assembly, inducted the inhabitants of this region into the modern history of human rights.


                                                                                    politician and diplomat – Dimitrije Davidović


The author of this document was a journalist, politician and diplomat – Dimitrije Davidović. He wrote the   Constitution based on those of France and Belgium. The constitution spurred national awareness, the overthrow of the feudal system and the autocratic rule. However, the Sretenian Constitution enraged the major remaining colonialist powers (Austria, Turkey, and Russia) and was quickly repealed as a precaution to prevent its influence from spreading throughout Europe.


What is Sretenje according to church and folk customs?

The Serbian Orthodox Church celebrates this day 40 days after Christmas in remembrance of the time when Virgin Mary brought her son Jesus Christ to the temple in Jerusalem.

                                                                                                     Icon of the Meeting of the Lord

Folk customs and rich pagan traditions of this region connect this holiday to the image of old deities of summer and winter. It is believed that if a sunny day dawns and scares the bears by their own shadows thus putting them back into hibernation, winter will last for another six weeks.

Also, on this day, people try to meet as positive a person as possible on the street. It is believed that the character of the person you meet for the first time will set the atmosphere of your entire year. Because of this, many try to avoid the so-called baksuz (jinx) and a grump so as not to bring them bad luck during the year ahead.

other photos taken from Wikipedia

The author of the text “Sretenje – the meeting day of summer and winter, history, church heritage and folk customs” is Marko Radulović, an online lecturer of Serbian language at the Academic Serbian Association, the only accredited school for learning Serbian language online. Sign up for a free trial lesson and learn with us. We are looking forward to seeing you!