HOLIDAYS IN MACEDONIA FROM A TURKISH VOLUNTEER’S PERSPECTIVE
I have been in Macedonia since 23rd of November 2019 and I have to admit even though it seems wrong timing to be here in winter, IT IS NOT!
Because, I have seen many holidays for 2 months, from Christmas to Saint Days. Let’s see how Macedonian people celebrate these holidays and why they are important for them.
Christmas spirit has started here at the very beginning days of December, 2019. Streets, shops and houses were decorated. Lights were everywhere, Christmas trees were easily seen at every corner and new year wishes were winking at you from house and shop windows.
Some of us were excitedly waiting for the last day of 2019 because it is the day we have Secret Santa! Secret santa is a part of christmas culture. Among group of people, it is drew a number, the name you get is your Secret Santa! After you learn your Secret Santa, you buy a Christmas gift for that person and give it on 31st of December.
Christmas was not the only special event during december. There was a Saint Nichola Day on 19th of December. Saint Nichola is the protector of Prilep. Municipality of Prilep decides which Saint will be the protector and organizes a religious event in the city. I have been there this year. There was a huge crowd in the place of organization, the street was closed to traffic. Also, there were many boxes on long tables. I learnt that there were some traditional Macedonian foods inside of them. After the pope finished praying, these boxes were going to deal among people as free.
At the end of December, many families have a Christmas Eve Dinner. I was very lucky because my dear friend Lela and her family, aunt Lenche and uncle Nikola, invited me to their house for dinner. It was very nice for me to see this Christmas culture in a real home environment and try delicious home made foods. Thanks to Lela’s mother, I ended up the year by tasting an amazing Russian Salad, chicken soup and many more from traditional Macedonian cuisine. I can easily say that, Turkish and Macedonian cuisines have a lot of commons. That’s why, it was easy for me to adapt their food culture. That day, when clocks show 00:00, I suddenly heard the sounds of many fireworks. I rushed out of the room to watch fireworks from balcony. It was amazing!
Moreover, there is an interesting fact made me surprised a little bit. Most of Macedonian people do not celebrate Christmas at 25th of December, they celebrate it at 7th of January because most of the population is Orthodox. One day before Orthodox Christmas, 6th of January is called as Badnik. It is a very special day for them because all family members stay at home and spend time together. Even some of family members are out of town, they come for that day to be with their families. Therefore, you can not see anyone on the streets on Badnik. Again, I was very lucky to celebrate Badnik with Lela and her family. They invited me for Badnik dinner. Like Christmas Eve Dinner, foods were very delicious but there was one difference. Today, they do not consume animal products, everything is prepared without animals products. If you ask my favorite food, I would definitely say SARMA! It is very delicious, we also have it in Turkey but ingredients are a little bit different. Also, there is a special belief about this day, if you eat from everything on the Badnik dinner table, it is believed that you will be very lucky during the year.
As I told you, I came to Macedonia in a perfect time. There are many holidays, special days to experience. Let’s talk about another one, Saint Vasilij. I call it as BUREK DAY, hahah. Of course, it is not the official name of the day. Let me explain why I call it like this. That day, we ordered big Tepsija Burek and sit around it. One of us rotated it 3 times and started to distribute to each of us, relatively. Now, are you ready for the surprise? THERE IS A COIN IN BUREK. Yes, I am not kidding, the one who finds the coin in his piece of börek will be lucky, healhty and blessed during the whole year. Unfortunately, I was not the one who found the coin. The tradition is to drink Joghurt with burek. Macedonian joghurts are something between yoghurt and ayran in Turkey.
BUREK and YOGHURT
When the days are passing and we are almost in the middle of January 2020, Vodici is coming. This year, Vodici was on 20th January. This is an another important religious day for Orthodox people. I could not have a chance to watch it, unfortunately but I watched many videos from previous years. It is organized in each city of Macedonia. People gather around a lake, rive or swimming pool, it depends on the city. For example, Vodici is in Vardar River in Skopje, Ohrid Lake in Ohrid etc. The pope holds a cross and prays for a while. After praying, he throws the cross to the water. People waiting around the lake suddenly jump into the water and try to catch the cross because the cross is holy and keep the one catching it blessed and healthy during the year.
Right know, I am waiting for Procka, it is another traditional day in Macedonia. People celebrate this day by wearing crazy costumes. Also, I recommend you to be careful that day because “Mechkarı”s might pop up! They are Kasap, butcher in english, people wearing bear costumes and walking around the streets. These are all details that I know for know. I am looking forward to see Procka!
As you all know, culture and religion are the most important factors affect the holidays and traditional days of countries. When we look at these days, we can easily see that there are cultural and religous reasons under every holiday and these holidays bring people together and strengthen the bonds among them. It is also good for me to observe and experience other cultures because knowing other cultures while introducing my own culture in a different country makes me have a better understanding of cultures and understand the connection between them. I am very grateful for being part of this in Macedonia. We, humans, make the world where we live together more beautiful by sharing what we have and learning from each other.