Macedonian Orthodox Christmas
Kolede, Badnik i Bozhik
The Macedonian Orthodox Christmas celebration begins the evening of January 5th, which is known as kolede. Children go from door to door singing Christmas carols, heralding the birth of Jesus, and receiving fruits, nuts and candy from the people. Later in the evening, the elderly people from the neighborhood gather around a bonfire outside, and engage in a conversation about the past year and the year to come.
The following evening is the 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 decoratesd 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.”
Then the christmas dinner is served on the same table that the Christmas candle is burning. As part of the dinner, homemade bread (pogacha) with a coin hidden in it (usually placed inside before it was baked) is served. The traditional belief is that whoever gets the coin in his/her piece, will have a particularly successfull year to look forward to. The Christmas candle is then lit, and everyone sings a Christmas hymn. Very early Christmas day, people attend the first morning church service. After the family returns from church, the first guests arrive. This is usually someone who is a dear friend of the family, and is especially honored during the celebration. The guests are met by the hosts, who kiss the guest three times on the cheeks and give him/her the Christmas greeting “Christ is born” (Hristos se rodi), and the guest replies “Indeed he is” (Voistinu Se Rodi). These greetings are exchanged throughout the three days or Christmas. After the exchange or the greetings, the guest shakes the burning oak log and when the sparks fly up, he/she expresses his/her best wishes for the family. This is usually done in some form of rhyme, mentioning the Special desires of the family.
The Christmas dinner usually consists of roasted meat and other festive dishes; the very festive meal begins and the celebration continues for three days. The festive meal has to be rich, and should have meat as part of it, as it is meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus after the strict Orthodox Lent.
More information on Macedonia can be found at http://faq.macedonia.org/.