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Sense of Community and Winter Holidays

Badnjak At  Old  Serb  Orthodox  Church

By Yoga A., YES Abroad 2014-2015, Bosnia and Herzegovina

College application season has absorbed much of my time for the past few months. From writing essays upon essays, to the continuing adjustment to life in Bosnia and Herzegovina, my stay has given me room for reflection. With many universities asking various questions about the dynamic of communities I am a part of, I find myself more than simply adjusting, but becoming a part of the ebb and flow of life in Sarajevo.

Every day when I leave home for school, come home, or simply go for a run, I always see this lady who runs a mini-grocery store for a couple of apartment buildings in my neighborhood. Whenever I see her, she lights up, and I go in to talk to her about how school is coming along, my progress on college applications, and how my family is doing back home. Family and chit-chat dominate our conversations as she teaches me new words that I write down in my phone, giving me more practice for my Bosnian. Then, when I get home, I either get charged by my five-year-old host nephew or sit down to drink lemonade with guests, who are either family or neighbors. These experiences have made me notice and appreciate the formative role my family plays in my life.

In Sarajevo, the winter holiday season has been in full swing. I’ve had the pleasure of attending Midnight Mass at Katedrala Srca Isusova (Sacred Heart Cathedral), and Badnjak (Christmas Eve) at the Old Serb Orthodox Church in Sarajevo. In the Serbian Christmas tradition of Badnjak, the festive kindling of an oak tree represents the shepherds of Bethlehem’s efforts in the cave where Jesus Christ was born, to warm Baby Jesus and his mother throughout the night. Listening to mass in local language with people of several faiths showcased both the religious diversity and the cultural harmony of Sarajevo.

 Sretna Nova Godina! (Happy New Year!)