As part of a country that loves festivals, the Serbian people tend to be a friendly lot who know how to have a good time. Throwing a party, or joining one, is an art form in Serbia. Even so, the family unit sits at the center of life for the people of Serbia and many things revolve around it.
There is quite a diversity among people here, for a nation of its size. Many other ethnic groups join the Serbs. Among them are Albanians, Hungarians, Bosniaks, Roma, Croats, Slovaks, Bulgarians and Romanians.
Serbian is the official language spoken throughout Serbia. The Serbian language uses both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets. Several dialects and variants are spoken in different areas. Many people in Serbia speak and understand English very well. You'll also hear smatterings of many other languages throughout Serbia including the regional languages of Hungarian, Romanian, Slovak, Rusyn and Croatian.
The dominant religion in Serbia is Eastern Christianity, with the majority of followers belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church. Other worldwide religions are also represented in smaller numbers.
Food preparation is a strong part of the Serbian family tradition. Common items that we might pick up at the grocery store - from jams and jellies to sauerkraut and sausage - are often made by hand at home.
Many of the customs in Serbia stem from traditions tied to the Serbian Orthodox Church. This includes the Slava, a custom that is exclusive to the Serbs. Each family celebrates its patron saint with a meaningful family event on that saint's traditional feast day. This has been a solemn day for Serbs of the Orthodox faith throughout history. Christmas traditions in Serbia vary from those in many other parts of the world. The country follows the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian one and celebrates Christmas Day on January 7. With a rich musical history, Serbia enjoys traditional music that is rife with notes from bagpipes, flutes, horns, trumpets, lutes, psalteries, drums and cymbals. Sung epic poetry that tells the tales of history and mythology is typically accompanied on a one-string fiddle called the gusle. The national dance of Serbia is a circle dance called the kolo, in which all participants join hands. This traditional collective folk dance takes on its own unique form depending on the region.
Every country surrounding Serbia -- and then some -- seems to have added its influence into Serbian cuisine. Having all these cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, only adds to the variety that one can sample from. Not only do the dishes of Serbia reflect the flavors that are characteristic of the Balkans (especially former Yugoslavia), but they also revel in ingredients, specialties and techniques from Turkish, Austrian, Hungarian, Mediterranean (especially Greek) and Middle Eastern menus. Grilled meat is a common staple on Serbian tables and in the restaurants. Ćevapčići, made of grilled, heavily seasoned mixed ground meat patties, is considered to be the national dish. Each region of Serbia may offer their own flourishes to a simple Serbian salad, sarma (stuffed cabbage), podvarak (roast meat with sauerkraut) and moussaka made of eggplant or potatoes. The national drink of choice in Serbia is the plum brandy slivovitz.