The Stuff of Christmas Homemaking: Transforming the House and Church on Christmas Eve in the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

  • Vesna Vučinić-Nešković Department of Ethnology and Anthropology Faculty of Philosophy University of Belgrade


The domestic burning of Yule logs on Christmas Eve is an archaic tradition characteristic of the Christian population in the central Balkans. In the fifty years following World War Two, the socialist state suppressed these and other popular religious practices. However, ethnographic research in Serbia and Montenegro in the late 1980s showed that many village households, nevertheless, preserved their traditional Christmas rituals at home, in contrast to the larger towns, in which they were practically eradicated. Even in the micro-regions, such as the Bay of Kotor, there were observable differences between more secluded rural communities, in which the open hearth is still the ritual center of the house (on which the Yule logs are burned as many as seven times during the Christmas season), and the towns in which only a few households continued with the rite (burning small logs in the wood-stove). In the early 1990s, however, a revival of domestic religious celebrations as well as their extension into the public realm has occurred. This study shows how on Christmas Eve, houses and churchyards (as well as townsquares) are being transformed into sacred places. By analyzing the temporal and spatial aspects of this ritual event, the roles that the key actors play, the actions they undertake and artifacts they use, I attempt to demonstrate how the space of everyday life is transformed into a sacred home. In the end, the meanings and functions of homemaking are discussed in a way that confronts the classic distinction between private and public ritual environs.


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How to Cite
Vučinić-Nešković, V. (2016). The Stuff of Christmas Homemaking: Transforming the House and Church on Christmas Eve in the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology, 3(3), 103-128. Retrieved from

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