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Serbian Orthodox Easter

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Serbian Orthodox Easter

Ajvar is a roasted eggplant spread eaten as an appetizer or condiment.

© 2008 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc. Serbian Orthodox Easter

Cevapcici are beef-lamb-pork sausages eaten as a main course or appetizer.

© 2008 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc. Serbian Orthodox Easter

Cheese burek also can be eaten as an appetizer or mai course.

© 2008 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.

The 46-day Lenten fast for Serbians and other Orthodox Christians is strict. Western Christians, for whom Sundays are exempt, fast for 40 days unlike Orthodox Christians who also fast on the six Sundays in Lent.

Not only is meat abstained from for the entire 46 days, but eggs and dairy products also. Now is the time for vegetarian sarma and other Serbian Lent recipes.

First and foremost, Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but it's also the opportunity to break the fast with great quantities of food.

Easter church services are followed by families having their baskets of colored eggs blessed by the parish priest. Usually the eggs are red symbolizing happiness, joy, rebirth and the blood of Christ. Families exchange eggs and say, Hristos Voskrese (Christ is risen). The response is Voistinu Voskrese (Indeed He is risen).

Only then do the festivities begin. Families have their favorite dishes but, traditionally, the meal begins with hors d'oeuvres of smoked meats and cheeses, avjar (roasted eggplant-pepper spread), boiled eggs and red wine.

Then, the dinner is laid on a table set with the finest hand-crocheted tablecloth, china, crystal and silver, and with a candelabra of three beeswax candles representing the Holy Trinity.

The meal usually starts with chicken noodle soup or chorba od janjetina (lamb vegetable soup), followed by spit-roasted lamb. Many Serbian Orthodox churches have a community spit where each family has its spring lamb cooked.

The offerings are rounded out by meat sarma, numerous salads, vegetables, bread, gibanica (a savory strudel sometimes made with aged kajmak), and pastries and tortes of all types for dessert. See these Serbian Easter recipes.

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