Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Christmas Eve Vespers at St Sava’s

Posted on by royvickery |

Christmas Eve Vespers were celebrated at St Sava’s Serbian Orthodox Church, in Notting Hill, London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, on Thursday 6 January 2022, starting at 7 p.m.  The church was packed.  A yule, a dead but leafy oak branch was placed near the entrance; straw was strewn on the floor, and glasses containing young wheat plants were placed beside icons (see posting of 8 January 2017 for details).

At the conclusion of the service people were given small bundles of straw and oak twigs (Turkey oak, Quercus cerris), to take home and burn, apparently ‘for luck’.


My neighbour Bishop Seraphim Newman-Norman [Patriarch of Glastonbury and Head of the British Orthodox Church] says that the oak in the bundles symbolises sacredness, and the straw the straw of the Bethlehem stable [Jane Lawson, Woolwich, London, 8 January 2022].

On 7 January 2023 the BBC News website displayed a series of photographs under the title ‘Orthodox Christians around the world mark Christmas’.  The caption to one photograph read: ‘In Serbia, people attended the annual bonfire of dried oak branches – the badnjak – the [sic.] at the Church of St Sava in Belgrade.  The fire symbolises that built by the shepherds to warm the baby Jesus in his manger’ [RV, 6 January 2023].

Photograph of yule taken on Christmas Day, 7 January 2022, © Carlos Bruzon.

Updated 8 January 2023.

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