The family slava (slava, krsno ime, krsna slava) is a family ritual dedicated to a Christian saint whom the family believe to be their protector and giver of prosperity. The celebration of the patron saint is practiced in most Orthodox Christian families in the territory of the Republic of Serbia as an important family feast in which individual families and their guests – members of the wider kin group, neighbours and friends, take part. Such feasts are most commonly dedicated to St Nicholas, St George, St John, the Archangel Michael, St Luke, St Demetrius. Among Serbs, slava is understood as a way of expressing the national identity. The Serbs are the bearers of this tradition, but the celebration of the family patron saint is also practiced among Orthodox Christian families that belong to different ethnic communities in Serbia.
The celebration of a patron saint involves the ritual offering of a bloodless sacrifice and banquets. The bloodless sacrifice consists of bread and wine, and it very often involves boiled wheat (these are the symbols of Christ's body and blood, fertility and prosperity). On the day dedicated to the saint celebrated by the family, at the family’s home, a specially designated candle is lit, the Lord’s prayer is uttered and the ritual bread (slavski kolač) – into which the sign IS HS NI KA is always imprinted – is cut: red wine is poured over the bread, it is cut crosswise, turned around and broken into for pieces, which are lifted up. During the ritual, prayers of thanksgiving to the saint and prayers for prosperity are uttered. The ritual cutting of the bread is performed by family members at their home; however, the practice of taking the ritual bread to church was also common, whereas prominent families were honoured by the presence of a priest, who performed the ritual cutting of the bread at their home.
In traditional urban culture, the banquets on the occasion of the slava were prepared primarily for family members but they were sometimes attended by the closest relatives or friends. Throughout the day, a large number of guests would visit the hosts to extend their greetings for the feast; however, they mostly came in the morning and in the evening. Guests were served coffee, brandy, wine – ladies were offered liqueur, and biscuits. After the greetings were over, guests usually did not stay for long. Prominent and wealthy families organized banquets and parties on the occasion of the slava.