A couple weeks ago, my daughter Katie accompanied me to the Serbian Festival in Phoenix to celebrate my birthday.
Serbia is located in southeastern Europe on the Balkan peninsula, east of Italy across the Adriatic Sea. In 1918, Serbia, along with Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo, Vojvodina, and Slovenia, merged to become Yugoslavia. They disbanded into independent nations in 1991 (I am greatly over-simplifying their struggles).
The festival took place at the beautiful (and colorful) St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church, which was open to the public. We went on the second day of the two-day festival.
One of the missions of the church, besides worshipping God in the traditional manner of Serbian Christians, is to preserve and pass on the culture and heritage of Serbia. The church also sponsors folklore groups for children and teens to teach and keep alive the traditions, music, and dances of Serbia.
The foyer to their Cultural Center was open as well, featuring educational exhibits, including these authentic Serbian costumes.
When we arrived, Srbija, a three-piece band (keyboard, accordion, and drum set) was playing Serbian music. I recognized some of the songs and joined the line of dancers doing the lesnoto step.
No ethnic festival would be complete without food, and this one was no exception. Katie and I split a palacinke (Serbian crepe) filled with nutella and ground walnuts.
The band played some more Serbians songs, and a bunch of teenaged girls (and an older woman) got up to dance.
But for me, the main event was the church’s Serbian folk dance groups. First up were the little kids:
Next were the Juniors:
And finally the Seniors:
Below, the girls dance in a circle while the boys grab onto the girls’ belts.
And here, the boys and girls are arranged like spokes on a wheel…
In the photos below, the dancers are linked together by holding on to each other’s belts:
As the program went on, the dances grew more and more complex. The girls always smiled. They were so beautiful, and the boys, so handsome. Aren’t their costumes gorgeous? Many of them were made by hand by their mothers, including the embroidery.