Christmas in Macedonia
Macedonia is part of only a handful of countries that still celebrate Christmas in January...
It’s the season of holidays and spreading joy. Days filled with hope for a better tomorrow. These are the days that embrace and praise the family. The most beautiful time of the year is upon us. The lights are permeating through alleys creating captivating magic. Incredible areas bloom with Christmas decorations reflecting the Christmas spirit. Amazing warmth and joy spread among people making the world a wonderful place to be living in.
Macedonian people give a lot of attention to the celebration of Christmas, which begins with the Christmas Eve, the day before Christmas. You’re probably wondering why we’ve published this article now, when Christmas was back in December. Well, unlike most of the world the unique thing in Macedonia is that Christmas Eve is on the 6-th of January and Christmas is on the 7-th of January. This is because the Macedonian Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar which is 14 days behind.
Christmas begins early in the morning with a service at the church. The Communion service is given only after the feuding are reconciled and invite each other to their homes as Christmas is known as a time of forgiveness and tolerance. People should clear their souls of any hate and manifest the purity of this day. In some villages in Macedonia, after the service the girls go by orchards and tie the trees to be preserved from diseases and be fruitful. This custom is accompanied by many songs and smiling faces.
Christmas is a holiday full of symbolism. In our celebration of Christmas many things are different from place to place, but either way Christmas cannot be imagined without the Christmas Eve, the Christmas twig, the straw and the Christmas cake.
Early in the morning on the day before Christmas Eve, the children sing and go from house to house where they get gifts such as walnuts, chestnuts, apples, oranges and other treats. This symbolizes the announcement of the birth of Christ.
On Christmas Eve the family comes together and prepares to celebrate the joyous Christian holiday with a dinner. The Christmas Eve dinner must be lean, but rich. It is believed that you if you are hungry this evening you will be hungry throughout the whole year. But, believe us, Macedonian homes are full of tasty dishes seasoned with the love of the family and traditional recipes that were passed on for generations. Rich feast of extremely lean foods as beans, potatoes, fish, pie, fruit, fasting specialties such as sarma and dolma and many other are prepared in order to provide enriched crops in the coming year, the more types of food there is the better. Of course the main part of the dinner is the Christmas cake, which is the one food the Christmas dinner cannot be without.
The Christmas cake it is baked early in the morning and either a gold, silver or an ordinary coin is placed randomly inside. The host of the house, the eldest man, is in charge of breaking and sharing the cake after he blesses the table and everyone at the table are given a piece. The one who will find the coin is believed to have luck, health and wealth and will guide the family through the new year. This coin is usually kept in a glass of wine until the following year as a protector of the house. Legends say that the coin represents luck but should also remind us of the hard work we should put in if we want to have a successful and fruitful year.
It is customary to leave the table with all the foods to stay through the night. This is related to the belief that during the night God will visit the house and eat, or in some places, the spirits of the dead.
According to tradition, the first guest that enters our home, on Christmas morning, is especially welcomed with joy and gifts. Symbolically, s/he represents the wise men that came to worship Christ in the cave. According to some beliefs, the next guest that year will bring happiness in the home.
There is a saying that is related to Christmas in Macedonia. We say: “No matter where you are through the year, be home for Christmas.” Macedonia is a country of traditional values. People appreciate the old-fashioned customs and tradition, the family always comes first. For all of us, Christmas is a time of joy, serenity and love. There is a safety that the family offers and that is the essence of that old saying. It reflects the hope and faith we put in Christmas. No matter what you go through in the whole year you can always come back home for Christmas. The whole family is gathered around the tree waiting for you, eating, singing and drinking. It is a magical time that you would wish never comes to an end. This time of the year is our favorite memory from the childhood and the one we imagine creating ourselves in the future. It is a Christmas we are living through and the one we will pass on to the next generations as it is the time that reminds us that we own the greatest wealth of all – the family.