Macedonian holidays – What to expect

When I still lived in the Netherlands I noticed how often Macedonians had free days, all days are to celebrate certain things. First of all they have a lot of religious holidays and second, looking into history of the Balkans and Macedonia, Macedonians have a lot of holidays for important days that lead to their independency. So of course all Macedonian holidays need to be celebrated!?

The Calendar

Before we continue, Macedonia is an Orthodox Christian country and they follow the Julian calendar, which differs from Gregorian calendar that is used by many western countries. So if you are from the west like me, basically keep in mind that religious holidays are two weeks later.

Everything will be celebrated

Besides the traditional religious and historical holidays, the Macedonians also have traditions, which are celebrated. And trust me when I say that Macedonians want to celebrate everything, I mean everything! A housewarming is normal in a lot of countries, but celebrating that you bought a car? Well at least you need to drink to that in Macedonia!

Is it the birthday of a daughter/son/husband/wife? Even then you can expect people will bring something small like candy or cookies to celebrate it. And a really interesting one is the Slava. Basically every household can have a Slava, but not only a household, also cities and towns can have it. What happens is that a saint (protector) is picked and you honor this saint as a protector of the family or town on that particularly day.

The Slava

As I mentioned before, Macedonians love to celebrate everything, so really this should not surprised me as much as it did when I first heard of it. Mostly here in Skopje it is not that common anymore, but in the smaller towns, every family has a Slava. Some Slava’s have been in the family for centuries, the Saint remains unchanged from father to son as a tradition of inheritance. What they do nowadays? Eat and drink mostly, but this day is for their Saint, so they honor that by going to church and follow the traditions that belongs to celebrating the Slava.

Name Day

Most Macedonians are named after the Saints of the Orthodox Christian Church. Actually this is not a ‘typical’ Macedonian celebration, it is known all around the world! Basically it is a celebration of his or hers patron Saint. And it is very similar to a birthday celebration. As a guest you bring something small and the host makes sure there is enough to eat and drink. Oh and an invitation is not necessary, you just need to come.

The day before Christmas

Ok, I come from a family of Catholics and Atheists, but Christmas is and will be always special to me, I just love that time of the year! And we are already have way through December! So me being used to my own traditions, the traditions here in the Christian Orthodox world were totally new to me. In the evening of the 5th of January, big fires are organized in the neighbourhoods, and while enjoying the fires people drink warm Rakija (traditional liquor) and sometimes there is also food (surprising ha?).

The day before Christmas also called Badnik, has a morning for the children. Very, very early in the morning children will go from door to door and sing a song. They call it Kolede. It is very similar to a holiday in the Netherlands (Sint Maarten) but the children sing songs and go from door to door in the evening!

How to prepare Kolede

I hate it when I see that traditions that are here for centuries get lost, all over the world. And a real shame, but here in Skopje Kolede is not celebrated as much as it used to be. So when I heard of it I wanted to know what the ‘rules’ are. You prepare a bowl of candy, fruit and coins, and as soon as you hear the kids ringing your doorbell you open the door and wait till they stop singing and present them the bowl. I know from my friends here that they loved this holiday, so really I want to keep this intact.

These are just some of the holidays that I find interesting here in Macedonia. Of course there are many more holidays and traditions, this really should not surprise you after reading this post. Here you can find a bit more about certain holidays!

Read my post about Macedonians and the fun and weird things I found out after getting to know them!

13 thoughts on “Macedonian holidays – What to expect

  1. Oh my god this is amazing! I’m Macedonian but have been living in the UK for the past 8 years, and when i read this i know exactly what you mean! Keep going cause you are doing a truly amazing job!!

  2. Wow I’m really enjoying your blogs about your experience in moving to Macedonia. I hope all things go well and only get better day by day 🙂 I am also moving back to Macedonia in the next week (near the town of Bitola, Southern Macedonia) and found your blog to be extremely fun and heartwarming. Hope to read more and Dobredojde vo Makedonija

    1. Thanks for your comment!!
      Good luck with moving back to Macedonia. I really like the Southern Macedonia!
      Enjoy reading my blog.
      Dobredojde nazad! Pozdrav

  3. This is really an amazing blog, so keep on writing 🙂
    And now regarding this post you forgot one “important holiday” … the tree planting day 🙂
    I’m guessing you know what i mean 🙂

    1. Hi Filip, Thank you so much for your comment!
      True that, that is really an ‘important’ holiday here haha 🙂
      Have a nice day

  4. A little background info on the various festivities you described. While they mostly have Orthodox religious pretenses and have been attributed to various saints, the customs of dressing up, putting masks and singing, as well as the bonfires and various carnivals other cities and town have (most notably the Strumica Carnival, first mentioned in 1670 but presumed to be far older than that, which should start in a couple of days, in 2015 it started on February 18. It’s a long drive from Skopje, basically to the southern part of the confines with Bulgaria, but if you have the chance I strongly suggest you check it out) have roots in the old Slavic and Ancient Macedonian culture and religions, but were assimilated by the influx of Christianization. Back then it was easier to avoid attempting to root out these customs, as it would lead to bloodshed (see the Crusades or Christians vs Vikings for examples of forced Christianization), and instead they assimilated everything and gave it a Christian context for the purpose of adapting the masses to the new religion.

    1. Wauw that is amazing background information! Thank you so much. I have always been interested in religion and history, and I will definitely check this out!
      Have a nice day.

  5. My niece and I are working on a project about my parent’s homeland of Macedonia. This blog was super informative and I’m so thankful you’re posting about your experiences and the knowledge you’ve gathered while there. Keep up the great work!

  6. Hoi Lise,(I will write you a bit in Dutch,it just feels like:)), sinds ik ben een Macedonische die heeft haar echte liefde hier in Nederland gevonden en woont in je geboorteland .Ik kwam naar Nederland “maar voor 7 maanden” en ik ben hier al 20 jaar!Ik wilde je feliciteren met je blog die heb ik nu voor het eerst ontdekt en kan niet stoppen met lezen,het is echt goed!Jij heb onze mentaliteit echt “onder je knie”.En kan je je voorstellen als ik maar begin over al mijn schokken hier ( en verassend genoeg komen die nog steeds voor!) Geniet verder daar i mnogu pozdravi od Hag!

    1. Hi Cvetanka,

      Dankje voor je bericht! Ik kan wel begrijpen dat emigreren naar Nederland niet zonder slag of stoot is gegaan!
      Ik vind het altijd heel leuk om te horen van anderen hoe zij Nederland en de Nederlanders ervaren, en natuurlijk ook onze cultuur 🙂
      Fijn dat je het al zo lang naar je zin hebt in Nederland.

      Pozdrav od Skopje

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