An error in the calendar that the church still sticks to when calculating its festive days gave Serbia two New Years, turning January into a month of celebration.
As in most countries with majority Orthodox Christian populations, Serbs have two New Years. The first one falls between December 31 and January 1, as calculated by the Gregorian calendar. This calendar, the most widely used civil calendar since 1582, is in fact a perfection of the Julian calendar with a 0.002 per cent correction in the length of the year.
After Soviet Russia adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1918, the Russian Orthodox Church continued to use the Julian calendar, a tradition upheld by churches in other Orthodox countries that also adopted new calendar for general use.
Most of them still calculate its important dates using the old calendar, so the second New Year falls on the date between January 13 and 14.
It is informally celebrated as a holiday among the Orthodox population in the Balkans as well as in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Kazakhstan, but also in other countries such as Wales (as Hen Galan), Scotland (in Gaelic events) and Switzerland (as alter Silvester).
In most of these countries it is called Old New Year, but Serbs have given a national touch to the occasion, referring to it instead as Serbian New Year.
In the Balkans, any occasion deserves a celebration, and many people enjoy bringing in the New Year in the exact same manner each year – with a concert in front of the parliament or on the main square and fireworks. Restaurants, clubs and cafes are booked up and offer live performances, food and drinks as the party continues into the night.