Friday, November 18, 2016

Celebration in Jablanica

          Up in the mountains overlooking Ohrid and Struga there's a village near the peaks, Jablanica. It's small, quaint and last month hosted a two day celebration in honor of their patron saint, Sv. Ilija. (St. Elijah). Why does the village have a celebration for him? I'm glad you asked. The story goes that many years ago a group of Islamic villagers left their village to plunder Jablanica. (Don't be fooled, the Islamic villages have stories of the Orthodox Christians doing the same). As they climbed the mountain it became foggy and difficult to orient themselves. They stumbled upon a shepherd and asked him for directions. He told them they were close but had to climb one more peak to reach Jablanica. The villagers did so and destroyed the village. When the fog lifted they realized they had burned their own village. The shepherd was Sv. Ilija so Jablanica, and their extended family members, celebrate on his nameday by slaughtering and eating a cow. 

It was a perfect day to climb to the church. 
Gina, Victoria, Brycen, Emma and I. 
Making the trek up. 
My selfie skills are still subpar.
Overlooking Jablanica one can see Struga, Ohrid and Ohrid Lake. 
There was meat galore, I loved it.
The guys in the green aprons were the ones who prepared the food. We had a good time standing around chatting and swapping jokes. (Most of which are not appropriate for this forum). 
The cow and I. 
          I know that for many killing a cow can seem cruel but the relationship to food here in Macedonia is quite intimate. Everyone knows where their meat comes from and that makes it even more important.  It's easy for us Westerners to tailgate every weekend but when the equivalent celebration only occurs once a year it heightens the experience. It's why they waited until midnight to kill it and lit a lot of fireworks.  Additionally, not a single piece was wasted. 

          One interesting thing that happened was some of the villagers figured out I could talk with them in Macedonian. So a few of them, after drinking rakia for who knows how long, came up and started chatting with me. We went through the rounds of my job, why I was here, how I knew Brycen etc. Then they pivoted to history and went right to why Macedonians are direct descendants of Alexander the Great. I've heard this a million times and let them go on before asking a few questions. Such as, "Why do you not speak Ancient Greek like Alexander did?" "Why do you speak a language that's more similar to Russian than Ancient Greek?" After they "educated" me about the history of the Macedonian language.  I asked "Do you think Tito cared about Alexander? Why did he not build any statues for him?"  The silence that followed was deafening. It was then that I looked around and realized a crowd of about 20 guys had gathered. Most of them were giggling at my logic, some were in disbelief and a few were annoyed.  Right then Brycen and his host father came up and told me they needed my help with the firewood.  As we walked away both told me the two main guys I had been talking with were a bit off and it was time to let them drink on their own.  I wasn't bothered by them but I agreed it was time to have some dinner.

          Now, the night we went up was the first night of the celebration and it was 99% men. The following morning, Sunday, all of the family members came up and the place went from being sparse to completely full. 

This guy brought his own pig to cook.
It smelled delicious. 
Park where you can.
There were trinket shops for kids.
Everyone was up a bit too early after staying up deep into the night.
Brycen was ready for coffee under Victoria's supervision.
The mountains were gorgeous.
We weren't that far from the peak.
You can see the church up in the trees.
By Sunday afternoon it was filled to the brim.
Many wore their "Sunday best". 
No celebration is complete here without music, dancing and rakia.
          I really enjoyed going up to Brycen's site and seeing how he's connected with everyone there. We all had a blast going camping for a night and enjoying being in his community. It was also the last time Gina, Victoria and I were out together as they have now completed their service and returned to America. 

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