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The biggest wedding in North Macedonia

On the 12th of July, St. Peter’s Day, each year, locals and tourists are invited to attend the traditional Macedonian wedding celebrations at Galicnik, a legendary old village in the western mountains near Mavrovo. The three-day feast, which includes much song, dance, eating and drinking, uses traditional customs, costumes, rituals and dances that have been passed down over the centuries. The Galicnik Wedding is an incomparable event that every visitor to Macedonia must experience at least once.

This traditional wedding is a reminder of the past. When Galicnik had 1600 people living in 800 houses, the Patron Saint day of the village would have more than 30 weddings in one day. Through decades-long migration Galicnik became famous for the traditional craftsmen, working throughout the Balkans, as well as the modern educated intelligence, having many artists, writers, researchers, and scholars descending from the region. Galicnik is the center of the so-called Miac region – an area considered to have unique and distinct ethnographic, linguistic, and cultural features. The region is famous for its white and yellow cheeses, for the masterpieces of traditional architecture in the form of hand-houses-towers, for the building of churches, fresco painting and the deep carvings of the churches interior. It is famous for its written and oral folklore. The first to immortalize the region was the 19th century poet Grigor Prlichev. His poem “The Serdar” deals with the dark side of Miac’s history and is filled with robbers, outlaws, – and the most famous defender and protector of the people, Kuzman The Kapidan, and his mother, Neda, who mourned his death with great toughness and a sense for freedom.

The Galicnik wedding is a rare example of spiritual folklore turning into a cultural event and saving the village and the region from complete “death”. Because of this summer event, life in Miac, once threatened by modern migration to cities, has been returned. An asphalt road was built in the 1970s and many traditional houses were restored. Recently even new buildings are being built in the traditional style. The local traditions in foods and stock breeding have been revived, and other cultural events like art colonies and cultural events have emerged.

As in its glory days, the village is full of life and people during the summer, during the traditional leisure period from St. Peters to St. Dimitar’s day in November.

With the arrival of the drums and pipes, the wedding, which is a combination of pagan and Christian rituals, starts. The bride and the bridegroom are selected by a committee with the criteria that either the bride or the groom has to originate from the village. During the two days of celebrating, a number of customs and rituals are followed. They give a glimpse of the richness and atmosphere of a wedding from the past. The modern-day brides participating in this traditional event will have lifelong memories of looking through the ring, giving presents, carrying the dowry, and taking the bride. “I’m looking at you through the ring, let me enter your heart”, is the traditional saying. The marriage ceremony attracts many guests. Often it is strengthened with additional cultural events like music performances of folk or ethnic singers and bands. The church temple of “St. Petar and St. Pavle” in Galicnik each year welcomes several thousand quests from Macedonia and other countries.

The dance expressing the people’s soul

As part of the wedding, the older people from Galicnik dance the “Hard Dance” (Teskoto), a symbolic dance, and wear the costume of the people in this region. While dancing, they are reminded of hardships in the past, of seeking their fortune,  of weddings, and of happiness. A few tears roll down their wrinkled cheeks in grief for the past and in happiness that Galicnik still lives.

The Hard One (Teskoto) is considered to be one of the most beautiful and most difficult Macedonian folk dances. In essence, it is devoted to the farewell moments of the Macedonians who were leaving their country to work abroad. The Hard One was danced at the outskirts of the villages, where people made their farewells to their beloved ones before embarking on the road to the unknown hard work abroad. However, over time it developed into a hymn not only of the people who worked abroad but also of sufferings that piled up in the Macedonian souls through the centuries of subjugation. This folk dance has inspired many artists and poets. Blaze Konevski wrote his outstanding poem “Teskoto” – “The Hard One”) inspired by the dance.