Serbian is a South Slavic language and the official language of Serbia. Serbian is the standardised variety of the Serbo-Croatian language spoken in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia (BCMS). Outside of these countries, it is a minority language in Macedonia, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, with a diaspora of speakers scattered worldwide.
The BCMS languages share three dialects: Shtokavian, Chakavian and Kajkavian. The most widespread dialect is Shtokavian, the basis for all the standardised BCMS languages. Shtokavian itself has three varieties and a dialect called Torlakian is spoken in south-eastern Serbia.
Serbia uses both the Cyrillic and Serbian alphabets. Speakers are able to read both scripts although use of the Cyrillic alphabet is declining.
When translating from Serbian to English, the word count remains about the same.
Christian festivals are important events in Serbia. In particular, Christmas Eve, observed on 6 January and called Badnje Vece, is a significant occasion celebrated with age-old traditions. Dry oak branches and hay are bought into the home as a symbol of fertility and prosperity for the coming year. Churchyards are used to light bonfires and sing hymns, and there is a special Christmas Eve meal of non-dairy and non-meat dishes. Another major annual event is Krsna Slava, a celebration of the patron saint of the family. There are special foods for the occasion, such as Kolac, a round decorated loaf of bread which is blessed by a priest before the meal. A candle is lit in honour of the saint and the celebrating family sings songs and tells folk stories. There are about 150 patron saints. Saint Sava, Serbia’s patron saint and the patron saint of education, is honoured across the country on 27 January, and a few other popular saints’ days are celebrated nationally as well.