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Such are the customs that have just disappeared; but many national peculiarities still remain. At Christmas, for instance, every peasant goes to the woods, and cuts down a young oak; as soon as he returns home, which is in the twilight, he says to the assembled family, “A happy Christmas eve to the house;" on which a male of the family scatters a little grain on the ground and answers, “God be gracious to you, our happy and honoured father.” The housewife then lays the young oak on the fire, to which are thrown a few nuts and a little straw, and the evening ends in merriment.
Next day, after divine service, the family assemble around the dinner table, each bearing a lighted candle; and they say aloud, “ Christ is born: let us honour Christ and his birth.” The usual Christmas drink is hot wine mixed with honey. They have also the custom of First Foot. This personage is selected beforehand, under the idea that he will bring luck with him for the ensuing year. On entering the First Foot says, “ Christ is born !” and receives for answer, “ Yes, he is born !" while the First Foot scatters a few
grains of corn on the floor. He then advances and stirs up the wood on the fire, so that it crackles and emits sparks; on which the First Foot says, “ As many sparks so many cattle, so many horses, so many goats, so many sheep, so many boars, so many bee hives, and so much luck and prosperity.” He then throws a little money into the ashes, or hangs some hemp on the door; and Christmas ends with presents and festivities.
At Easter, they amuse themselves with the game of breaking hard-boiled eggs, having first examined those of an opponent to see that they are not filled with wax. From this time until Ascension day the common formula of greeting is “ Christ has arisen !” to which answer is made, “ Yes; he has truly arisen or ascended!” And on the second Monday after Easter the graves of dead relations are visited.
One of the most extraordinary customs of Servia is that of the Dodola. When a long drought has taken place, a handsome young woman is stripped, and so dressed up with grass, flowers, cabbage and other leaves, that her face is scarcely visible; she then, in company with several girls of
twelve or fifteen years of age, goes from house to house singing a song, the burden of which is a wish for rain. It is then the custom of the mistress of the house at which the Dodola is stopped to throw a little water on her. This custom used also to be kept up in the Servian districts of Hungary, but has been forbidden by the priests.
Town life. The public offices.— Manners half-Oriental halfEuropean.— Merchants and Tradesmen.— Turkish population.-Porters.-- Barbers.-Cafés.- Public Writer.
On passing from the country to the town the politician views with interest the transitional state of society: but the student of manners finds nothing salient, picturesque, or remarkable; every thing is verging to German routine. If you meet a young man in any department, and ask what he does; he tells you that he is a Concepist or Protocollist.
In the public offices, the paper is, as in Germany, atrociously coarse, being something like that with which parcels are wrapped up in England; and sand is used instead of blotting paper. They
commence business early in the morning, at eight o'clock, and go on till twelve, at which hour every body goes to the mid-day meal. They commence again at four o'clock, and terminate at seven, which is the hour of supper. The reason of this is, that almost every body takes a siesta.
The public offices throughout the interior of Servia are plain houses, with white-washed walls, deal desks, shelves, and presses, but having been recently built, have generally a respectable appearance. The Chancery of State and Senate house are also quite new constructions, close to the palace; but in the country, a Natchalnik transacts a great deal of business in his own house.
Servia contains within itself the forms of the East and the West, as separately and distinctly as possible. See a Natchalnik in the back woods squatted on his divan, with his enormous trowsers, smoking his pipe, and listening to the contents of a paper, which his secretary, crouching and kneeling on the carpet, reads to him, and you have the Bey, the Kaimacam, or the Mutsellim before you. See M. Petronievitch scribbling in