The Miraculous Carnival

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The village of Vevcani is one of the most unusual places in Macedonia. It gained its unique publicity that outranges Macedonia, in the late 1980s, before the fall of Communism, when the villagers rebelled against the communist regime over a local water supply issue. Then, throughout the 1990s when communism has been largely a finished story, the village resurrected on the cultural and touristic map with the famous Vevcani carnival, one of biggest in the region. Today, the village has a unique strategy of alternative tourism and creates its own brand around the Carnival, the waters and the democratic rebellion against the Communist regime.

Water, water, everywhere…

Situated at the foot of Jablanica Mountain,Vevcani is just 14 kilometers north-west of Struga. The village is 900 meters above sea level, and some of itsterracesoffera wonderful view ofthe lake. The region surrounding the village is blessed with hot springs and an abundant supply of running water. (More than 1500 liters per second flow out from the springs.) There are glacial lakes above Vevcani. The most prominent called “Lokva” is situated over 2000 meters above sea level. The word “Vevcani”; is based on an Old Church Slavonic word which meant village. It is believed that the village of Vevcani was founded sometime around the end of the 6th century. The village was founded most probably by the Berziti, who had adopted Christianity.

Vevcani is known for being a hub of culture and history in that region. Along with its historic architecture,there are many preserved churches from the 17th and 18th centuries. Some of them bear the Masonic symbols of the prominent Mijak masters. The waters are most prominent natural feature of Vevcani, and the village has developed a unique touristic brand around it. They flow inopen channels through the village. There are many watermills preserved around the upper part, near the springs. The whole area around the spring is preserved and carefully arranged for visitors. There are many legends and stories connected with the springs, the caves, and the glacial lakes. It involves villains, medieval rulers like Krale Marko, and even more recent figures as one of the great electricity inventor, Mihajlo Pupin, who lived his boyhood in the village. Today his house is turned into a memorial site and offers accommodation and traditional food, including delicious local dishes and very tasty white and yellow cheese.

Its plentiful water supply caused many problems for the villagers just before the fall of communism. The authorities blamed the inhabitants of Vevcani for not sharing their water with the neighboring Oktisi village.The villagers doubted the waters would be used for the exclusive villas settlement of high communist officials on lake shores. They blocked the ground works and faced brutal intervention by the police. The villagers persisted in their riot and the plan was ceased. Nowadays, telling the story, the local citizens are proud to be the leaders of the democratization of the country. As memory of the events, the residents voted for the establishment of independent “Republic of Vevcani.” As part of the touristic activities, local offices are issuing special passports of the republic.

Be home for Vasilica

The carnival in Vevcani happens on 13 and 14 January during the time of the Old New Year (according to the Julian Orthodox calendar) in the eve dedicated to Saint Basil the Great. It is the very important period linked with the birth and baptism of Jesus Christ. Apart from the religious tradition, older, pagan roots lurks beneath the carnival. It is the time to secure the welfare in the New Year.

In this time of the year such customs can be found through the whole territory of the Republic of Macedonia and the main “actors” are called with different names: vasilichar, golomar, survar etc. In the pagan belief, this is a critical period when the negative energies from the underground world freely walk on earth and inflict evil. So, when the year is young, there is a need to organise protective carnivals to make ritual dislodgement of the evil energies and to bring welfare in the coming year.

The carnival of Vevcani plays around a wedding as a symbol of fertility and only men can be the main “actors”. It is some kind of parody in which the main role has the bride (incarnation of fertility) and the groom (as a symbol of phallus) and their wedding guests from the above and below neighbourhood from the village. Two separate wedding groups wander around the village.In the past those two bands have not been allowed to meet to each other because it was considered a bad sign. The ritual begins and finishes with the traditional Vasilicarskoorb (Vasilica’s round). The bride with her groom enters every house expressing blesses for health and fertility for the coming year. The ritual round trip around the village and the visiting of the cult places (the springs of Vevcani) was and remain main moments in the performing of the customs and represent very important magic interpretation of inspiring fertility and providing welfare.

Today there is obvious commercialisation of the carnival. Side by side with the anthropomorphous and zoo morphing masks we can see a parade with modern masks.These caricatures from the political scene nationally and internationally add to the glory of the carnival.All citizens from the village participate in providing a good atmosphere; all houses are open for the quests with full tables of food and locally made wines.

The money and all goods which are collected by the Vasilicarsare kept during the year
and used for the organisation and creation of masks for the next carnival.