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!?
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.
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.
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!