North Macedonia is a land-locked nation located in southeastern Europe. The current border runs along mountain chains that separate the republic from Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, and Kosovo and Serbia. Macedonia is slightly larger than the state of Vermont with a total area of 9,781 square miles (25,333 square kilometers). The country consists mostly of mountains separated by flat river valleys. The capital, Skopje, is the largest city.
Rich culture of Macedonian people is vivid in well preserved customs, among which is the Orthodox Christmas Eve, when a traditional oak log (badnik) is brought to the home. This log is cut by the father of the household and his older son, while the table is being set for the Christmas Eve supper (Posna Vechera). The dinner cannot have anything derived from animals, and it cannot be cooked using cooking oil or other types of fat. The traditional dinner usually consists of baked fish. The dinner is the last day of a traditional 40-day Orthodox Lent, which is done in a way to honor the Virgin Mary for carrying baby Jesus. The oak log is cut into three pieces, representing the Holy Trinity, and each piece is brought into the house by the father. A member of the family receives a piece and places it on the fire. As this is done, the son and the father exchange a greeting: “Good evening and happy Christmas Eve” (Dobra Vecher i Vesel Badnik). While the log is being placed on the fire, the mother and the grandmother gather the children together into the room where the dinner is to be served. Each person carries a bundle of straw from outside, and together with the mother they spread the straw on the floor. The spreading of the straw on the house floor is meant to make the atmosphere more like that when the night Jesus was born. The house is decorated further with oak and pine branches, representing the wish of the family for long and healthy life, “with health strong as oak, and with a life long as that of the oak.”
National Museum of Macedonia in Skopje is divided into three departments: Archeological, Historical, and Ethnological (the same ticket covers them all). It is highly advised to visit the Ethnological section of the National Museum of Macedonia, since it is a very good one. The Ethnological section exposes about 70 original national costumes from different parts of Macedonia, all decorated with highly stylized and wonderful patterns. Look for the Wedding dress from Mavrovo, which is 40 kg in weight, and the wig that the bride had to wear for a month after the wedding as a symbol of her virginity. Also different customs are explained, and there is also a good presentation of traditional architecture through models and photographs. The archaeological section of the National Museum of Macedonia in Skopje has a rich collection of objects from the neolithic times 5000 years B.C. up to the 7th century A.D. Unfortunately many artifacts have been taken to Belgrade or Sofia through the years and they have never been returned. The highlights are the Tetovo Menada figurine (from the 6th century BC) and the prehistoric figurines of the Great Mother. Unique are the 6th century terracotta icons from Vinica (icons like this have been found only in Tunisia and Macedonia). The historic department is not as interesting, but also presented here are copies of the best frescoes from all around Macedonia (which is good if one is interested in Byzantine art but does not have time to travel around). The gallery of icons is also here, it comprises icons from the 10th to the 19th century, and even some of them are the best ones from Macedonia (including the Bogorodica Pelagonitisa), but the Ohrid Icon collection is still much nicer and more valuable.
The Macedonian music is extremely singable and always awake emotions of every person who listens it…. Macedonian Music that follows traditional dances is very strong and so amazing that make you fall in love in every song…. Macedonian dances are very dynamic and provide its listener and auditorium to feel and learn events of past, performed to present the most beautiful gems of Macedonia’s folk treasury. Macedonian traditional dances have important place in the folklore and the music traditions of Macedonia. Macedonian folklore best describes the strongly positive and highly sensitive soul of people of Macedonia. The folklore dances of Macedonia include those dances connected with life cycles and could be defined as the warrior, wedding, harvest, love dances and others….
The traditional culture is rural, but today more than 60 percent of the population is urban, with a quarter of the national residents living in metropolitan Skopje. Traditional architectural influences are Mediterranean, Byzantine, and Ottoman. Modern high-rise apartment blocks have a balcony, which often is used for storage and clothes drying. A traditional Muslim household has separate rooms for male and female guests, whereas a Christian house has a single room. In older urban neighborhoods, individual single-story rooms open into a central courtyard. Wealthier traditional urban houses have one or more upper stories projecting over the street. Urban areas are characterized by a historical center with an open bazaar. Skopje was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake in 1963. The old main train station, torn in half with its clock stopped at the moment of the quake, was reinforced and left standing as a monument to the disaster. Many public monuments commemorate those fallen in World War II or Ilinden. Since 1991, many villages have restored or built new churches or mosques.
Taking pride in their rural customs, Macedonians cling tight to history and tradition. Spend some time here, and you’ll realize that People go out of their way to prepare and enjoy different recipes. Surprisingly enough, this is true for the capital city Skopje, as much as it is for the countryside. Macedonian cuisine requires dedication, and the locals are more than ready to roll up their sleeves and prepare something nice.
Macedonians know how to enjoy a good atmosphere along with food
Most of the ethno ambient that goes hand in hand with Macedonian traditional food has been preserved, making the serving equally important, and often a real spectacle to enjoy. Macedonians value traditional music, the ethno appeal, and the entire ritualistic approach that goes along with a meal. Most of the recipes are preserved, and with them an entirely different era. Foreigners, as you might imagine, love this more than everything else, paying lip service for years on end.