Thursday, January 22, 2015

Macedonian Christmas

          After having our Peace Corps Christmas, we celebrated NYE and next was Macedonian Christmas.  Here the religious calendar is based on Eastern Orthodoxy and that's why Christmas is celebrated on January 7th not December 25th.  Also, Santa Claus is considered a weird thing and most of my students don't really care about him.  There also wasn't a lot of Christmas build up like there is back home.  For example, Christmas music starts in mid-November at some places, much to my annoyance. Here that didn't happen until about two weeks before January 7th. I think that's because there are so many cultural gatherings that people are together for weeks before Christmas, so it doesn't have the same feeling it does to us. 
          The day of, we got up and went to church.  In my village, the church is central and isn't just a place of worship but is also a social gathering.  Now you might be thinking that the service would be a traditional hour long service that was highly ritualized.  You're right on the latter but not on the former.  Check it out for yourself.

Heading in with half the village already there.

Everyone gets a candle and lights one while saying a small prayer. 
You go into the church where the woman stand on the left and the men on the right.
          We stayed there for a good 20 minutes then we went outside to greet other people coming in to the church.  Some guys were handing out топло ракиа, hot rakia, since it was about 15degrees.
See the pot of rakia?

          Here's a funny tidbit half the village knew who I was but for people just meeting me they thought I was Daniella's brother visiting from Australia.  How else could they explain my strange accent and limited Macedonian?
          Later that day, around 9pm, we went to a friends nameday celebration.  A nameday celebration is when a person's name is the same as the Saint in the calendar.  So if your name is Christian then you have a nameday in honor of Christ. Same goes for Petar, Peter, Michael, Mikael etc.  Now when we went to the nameday I actually recognized everyone there.  The past month I'd been going to every slava, nameday and na gosti with my family so I was able to put names to faces.  I said hello, small talked for a minute then went to chat with the host's son, Christian, since he knows English. 
          We talked and then some more people came in, including Daniella's mother and father.  I know them both and they're great people.  They sat down with Christian and I on the couches we said hello and then Daniella's mom turned to me and yelled right into my ear, "KAKO CE, DOBRO?" Translated, "How are you, good?" Everyone just stared but I managed to not laugh and responded, "Dobro baba jac razbiram ti."  "Good, I understand you." I then added in English "I'm not deaf." while pointing to my ear.  Everyone laughed, she laughed I gave her a hug and now she teaches me a little about her cooking for a bit every time I see her.
          A couple of minutes after that we headed to another nameday but this was unlike any I'd been to yet.  Everyone there was in their mid 40's and under, there was a lot of modern Macedonian music and decorations.  It was more of what I would consider to be a Christmas party than a nameday.  I loved it. 
Every host always has a full spread.
Turned out the host was one of Goce's best friends from school. So things loosened up pretty quickly.
Especially after a little vino.
          Later on, I told the hosts, their grandmother and Goce and Daniella about what had happened at the previous nameday.  By the end of the story everyone was crying from laughing so hard.  It was a great feeling just being able to share an experience in Macedonian with everyone, even for a moment. 


  1. Thank you for sharing all this. I enjoy reading your stories and experiences.

  2. Thanks Lori, there are many more to come.