Today is Orthodox Christmas in Macedonia. We woke to a cloudy day that turned into morning snow flurries. It is also Monday which means there is a Monday hike and an excuse to delay our packing one more day.
Dan and I joined two friends, Tereza and Tiesja, and drove to St. Nikita Monastery to hike through the mostly abandoned village of Chucer in Skopska Crna Gora located a few miles northwest of Skopje. When we arrived there was still a light dusting of snow covering the ground and rooftops making the landscape look like a Christmas card.
We found that while many of the structures are indeed ruins and uninhabitable, there were a few homes still occupied.
Resident of Chucer Village
The village across from Sveti Nikita
Santa Claus is not part of Christmas here and once New Year's Day was celebrated, the Santa gang quickly disappeared from the central square. On the night of 5 January, with a nod to a pagan past, bonfires were lit.
We missed the bonfires, but we didn't miss the next tradition which occurs very early on Christmas Eve (called Badnik) day. Just before 8:00 a.m. on 6 January, our doorbell rang and we could hear people singing outside the door. This is kind of the Christmas version of Halloween. The people on the other side of the door have bags into which you should put money or food. Not being prepared for this event and having mostly emptied our cupboards and refrigerator of food in preparation for our departure, we did the best we could. A few dinar coins here and food there.
Another tradition for Christmas Day is bread (pogatcha) that is baked with a coin inside. The one who takes the piece of bread with the coin will have luck the rest of the year.
Tomorrow, 8 January, is our last full day in Macedonia. We have arranged for a van to pick up us, our 8 suitcases, and Kali Cat and transport us to Sofia where we will spend the night in a hotel before leaving the Balkans on 10 January.
While I look forward to going home, it is always so hard to say goodbye to those who have given me their friendship. I will miss my friends, and many things about life in Macedonia.
Ciao Ciao Makedonija!