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December 2014 issue
by Annalisa Natali Murri
Ederlezi is the Gypsy name of the Serbian celebration of Saint-George’s day (Djurdjevdan), which is widely
celebrated in the Balkans and beyond, on the 6th of May by both Muslim and Christian Orthodox Roma.This day is
a spring celebration marking the beginning of summer and allegedly bringing good fortune and wealth: fires, fresh
twigs and water serve as symbols of life and spring. Preparations for St. George’s day start on 5th May, when a lamb
is ritually killed by the householder and girls and women go into the hills to gather herbs and twigs. At the banks of the
local river, they then make wreaths to put on their heads and to decorate their window sills or doors, while men dive
into the river and take propitiatory baths. The following day the lamb is grilled for the feast dinner. Music resounds
loudly everywhere. People dance and sing all day long.
A sort of check-point marks the entrance of the gypsy settlement in Kraljevo, Serbia. The days before St. George's day
(Ðurdevdan in serbian), which falls the 6th of May, all the families prepare to celebrate one of the greatest days for the
whole Roma community.
In the days before the festival, people wheel and deal to organize parties and banquets, a lot of money passes from
hand to hand in the community.
St. George's day is the feast dedicated to the birth and flourishing of nature and the welfare of the people. Every family
starts to prepare one or two days before.
Two women dance together.
Hospitality is sacred. Everyone is ready to share what he has, expecially during St. George's day.
Everyone, men and women, adults and children are committed to having everything ready for the party.
According to tradition, the day before St. George's, young girls walk the meadows around the river at the camp
borders. They gather herbs and grasses to make wreaths to be used in the next day's celebration and adorn the gates
or doors of their houses to bring good luck.
Collection of flowers and branches for the feast occurs as a kind of festive procession, dancing and singing together.
Children playing with lambs at the borders of the Roma settlement.
The previous day, tradition dictates that every family kills a lamb as a sign of prosperity, which is then roasted the next
day and offered to everyone who wants to sit at the table.
After the family man has slaughtered the lamb, the women go up and down the street to wash the blood throwing
buckets of water.
A family gathers at the house. Someone is resting, someone is adorning the fence and someone else has just finished
cleaning the car. Everything should be at its best. The more you have, the more you have to show.
A car is passes through the narrow streets of the village, bringing precious supplies to one of the few markets serving
the area. These days, everything sells out.
In the most disadvantaged area of the settlement, a slum near the municipal dump, live the "untouchable" gypsies.
Even here, despite the harsher living conditions, people are preparing to celebrate St. George.
People set the table with all sorts of things to eat and drink, in relation to what they can afford. Alcohol never fails to
invoke the singing of folk songs and dancing.
The roasting of the lamb is an important moment for the families, which gather together around the fire. According to
gypsy traditions, however, everyone who wants to join is welcome.
A quiet moment just after the celebration banquet.
A family dancing in the courtyard outside their home.
Young girls run home from the river with their branches and wreaths recently prepared.