Culture & Traditions

The festival of jokes

Macedonia does not have long and cold winters. But it has preserved a calendar with lots of winter festivities. Once their aim was to keep the family and the community together during the long, cold and dark nights enabling them to pull resources and exercise social control during the months with shorter working hours and possible food shortages. People celebrated religious occasions with feasts, shared food resources and engaged in social activities in front of the fireplaces and around fires.

Today it seems that the festive and cultural moments predominate in the seasonal celebrations turning old traditions into gratuitous entertainment without due respect of religious and social rules. Many winter celebrations are a blurred mix of Pagan and Christian traditions contradicting each other.

The first festive occasion comes up shortly after the celebration of the secular New Year. Following the Julian calendar, Macedonian Orthodox Christians celebrate the Christmas’ Eve two weeks after the majority of the Christian World, on 6th January. But instead of a solemn feast in a mournful atmosphere Badnik (the Christmas Eve) is celebrated by burning huge fires and eating and drinking gatherings in each neighbourhood. Oak tree branches are cut and carried home to protect the family and to bring good luck. Read more…