Orthodox Christmas isn't until 7 January, however, holiday lights and decorations began appearing in Skopje in early November. Each week, something new has been added. On our first day back in Macedonia, our Christmas Day, Dan and I were accosted by a gang of men hanging out at Macedonia Square. They were wearing their gang colors--red and white with faux fur accents. Curiously, they all wore hats, white wigs and long beards.
The members of this Santa-suited gang grabbed the hands of smiling children, tourists, and other unsuspecting foreigners and led them away. The gang leader grabbed our hands and led us to a snowy little corner where we were held hostage by the gang's mascot until we agreed to have our photo taken.
The Santas, the trees, the lights are all related to the four days of celebration for the New Year. New Year is a big thing in Macedonia. My friends have told me that during the socialist period, celebrations related to religion were frowned upon so they were kept private. The public celebration was for the New Year. People get new clothes, go to many, many lunches, visit friends, and exchange presents for the New Year's celebration not for Christmas.
Along the pedestrian street, tables have been set up to sell holiday greeting cards, New Year's hats and noisemakers, bottle rockets, and firecrackers. Groups of children carelessly throw lit firecrackers on the streets and sidewalks. For days now sporadic explosions have filled the air.
This afternoon, cafes blaring music were packed with people getting an early start on the celebration. Tonight, there will be music in the square and fireworks afterward.
The decorated Makedonija pedestrian street
Happy New Year
Среќна Нова Година