Our Christmas trip around the world heads away from the Christmas celebrations in Lithuania to Macedonia, heading almost due North for 1,515km.
A landlocked country situated in Southeast Europe, Macedonia (North Macedonia since 2019 or Republic of North Macedonia as it's officially called) is part of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Macedonia has a population of just over 2 million and covers an area of 25,713 square km.
Macedonia is home to the oldest and one of the deepest lakes in Europe. Ohrid Lake - a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979 - is 288m at its deepest depth and is estimated to be around 4 million years old!
So, how do they celebrate Christmas in Macedonia ?
Christmas is celebrated on 25th December - due to their use of the Julian calendar, this is 7th January in our calendar.
The main religion in Macedonia is the Orthodox Church.
Houses are traditionally decorated with oak branches and straw which is either on the floor or under the table cloth. Christmas trees are also fairly popular.
On January 5th, many people – children especially – go carol singing around their neighbourhood. In return for their singing, they often get nuts, fruits, and coins. After carol singing, people gather around bonfires, usually large ones in parks where members of the community come together to see it. Afterwards, a special bread (bannock bread) is passed around with a coin baked into it and everyone takes a piece, whoever gets the coin is supposed to have good luck for the next year.
On Christmas Eve, a traditional oak yule log, called a ‘badnik’ is lit in the house.
Many people will got to a church service on Christmas day.
After Christmas Day, the festive spirit continues for another three days until January 10th. There is a belief in Santa, however he comes on New Years rather than Christmas as people don’t exchange gifts at Christmas. Leftovers of the Christmas Day meal are traditionally left on the table over night and it’s believed that God may visit to try some.
The main meal is eaten on the evening of Christmas Eve (Jan 6th) and is called ‘posna’. The meal traditionally doesn’t have any dairy, meat or animal products and the dishes are usually things like; fruit and nuts, baked cod or trout, bread, kidney bean soup, pickled vegetables, potato salad, red pepper dip (ajvar), and sarma (cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and spices). Coin bread, as eaten at the end of the bonfire, is eaten again for dessert.
There’s another feast after the church service on Christmas day which usually includes roasted meats, cheese pies, salads, breads, cakes and sweets.
Our next destination goes to look at Christmas in Madagascar.