Like in the previous four years, Milica traveled from Kraljevo to Denmark, specifically to a village near Aalborg, to attend an international camp for children, where she learned a lot about tolerance. On the first day of the camp, it was quite warm for Danish standards, and children from all parts of Europe gathered in the “main square” of the camp. The atmosphere was cheerful and playful, and the children were eager to meet their peers from different countries and learn something new about other cultures. And so was Milica.
The first day featured a workshop called “All the Same, All Different,” where each child was given the task of drawing a special custom from their country. The children eagerly grabbed wax crayons or paints, brushes, and large-sized paper, trying to depict their customs on the paper. Milica drew vivid pictures showing multiple people singing songs while carrying large woven baskets and smiling.
When the workshop ended, the girls from Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Serbia noticed among themselves that they had incredibly similar drawings. They looked at each other with smiles and began discussing their customs. A Danish girl named Emma was the first to speak up.
“I see that we all drew people singing songs and carrying candles. It reminds me of a tradition we have in Denmark called ‘julefrokost,'” Emma said. The other girls, gathered around her, were astonished because they were surprised by how similar their drawings were.
A girl from Germany, Lena, nodded and said, “Yes, it’s all clear to me. We call it ‘Sternsingen’ or ‘Heischebrauch’ in some regions of my country! We gather in the evening, go from house to house, sing songs, and wish everyone happy holidays.”
Nora from Norway joined in, saying, “We also have a similar custom! We call it ‘julebukking’ or ‘julebukk.’ We wear masks and visit homes, singing songs and bringing joy to the hosts we visit. It’s always fun to visit people who celebrate Christmas or the Feast of the Epiphany.”
Milica, surprised by what she heard, said, “In Serbia, we also have ‘korinđanje’! The children from our neighborhood gather, dress up in traditional costumes, sing Christmas songs, or recite in front of the hosts. It’s done to ensure a fruitful year, my grandma told me. I’ve been doing it since I was six years old. I can’t believe it; I thought only we in Serbia had that!”
The girls were thrilled to discover similarities among their countries and traditions. They began exchanging stories about their holiday customs, singing songs to each other in their native languages.
Milica told them how she always comes back with a full basket of sweets, walnuts, hazelnuts, apples, and dried fruits, and that it’s one of her favorite customs. Everything feels so festive; it’s cold outside, darkness everywhere, but she feels special, like she’s on a very important mission to spread cheer. Every year, for Orthodox Christmas, she goes to her grandma’s village and participates in “korinđanje.” She even recited a little rhyme for them: “I am little Juca, a dog bit me, on the leg, on the arm, give me an apple, master,” in Serbian, of course, and the gathered children listened to her with enthusiasm, as if they understood what she was singing about. They applauded her afterwards.
Emma chimed in, saying they have something similar, but they usually dress up as animals, like deer or sheep, and they all sing special songs for that custom. Very often, her uncle joins them with his guitar, providing musical accompaniment. Emma mentioned that dancing is almost a must for them. Then they asked her in English to sing a song and dance for them, and everyone followed along, clapping to the rhythm of her words. It was fantastic.
Nora shared with her friends that similar things happen in her country, but they don’t wear masks or dance. One thing that’s different in Norway is that it’s almost obligatory to eat something from the evening feast when going “korinđanje” so as not to offend the hosts. Then she sang one of her favorite “korinđanje” songs as well.
In the end, Lena, the girl from Munich, shared with everyone that they have a similar tradition in their region. She and her friends dress up as the biblical Three Wise Men and always carry a large star, symbolizing the Star of Bethlehem. In Germany, it’s customary to sing Christmas carols and often carry small boxes where the hosts can leave some money to help children in need. Donating money for humanitarian purposes is a rule in their tradition.
Then all the girls stood up, held hands, and began singing typical “korinđaš” songs, each in their own language, while spinning in a circle. The other children in the camp accompanied them with guitars or clapping, creating a festive atmosphere as if they were truly experiencing “korinđanje” together. Their songs echoed throughout the camp, and everyone enjoyed the celebration.
After returning home from the camp, seven days later, Milica had a Skype call with her new friends, and they agreed to host each other every year to fully experience the atmosphere they talked about during the camp. That year, all three girls came to Milica’s in Kraljevo and were delighted to see that everything was exactly as Milica had described.
EXTRA INFORMATION ON THE TOPIC:
Before Christmas, there are many traditions that are cherished, such as bringing in the Yule log, symbolizing the anticipation of Christ’s birth. Additionally, three large logs representing the Holy Trinity are placed next to the hearth, and candles are lit from their fire. Straw is also brought in and placed under the table while Christmas carols are sung. Furthermore, Christmas trees are decorated and a ceremonial bread called “česnica” is prepared.
In addition to these traditions, there is a special custom called “korinđanje” in Vojvodina on Christmas Eve. Children dress up in costumes and go in groups to visit households, singing special “korinđaš” songs. In return, the hosts give them pastries, sweets, fruits, especially walnuts and dried plums, and sometimes even money.