The biggest wedding in North Macedonia

On the 12th of July, St. Peter’s Day, each year, locals and tourists are invited to attend the traditional Macedonian wedding celebrations at Galicnik, a legendary old village in the western mountains near Mavrovo. The three-day feast, which includes much song, dance, eating and drinking, uses traditional customs, costumes, rituals and dances that have been passed down over the centuries. The Galicnik Wedding is an incomparable event that every visitor to Macedonia must experience at least once.

This traditional wedding is a reminder of the past. When Galicnik had 1600 people living in 800 houses, the Patron Saint day of the village would have more than 30 weddings in one day. Through decades long migration Galicnik became famous for the traditional craftsmen, working throughout the Balkans, as well as the modern educated intelligencia, having many artists, writers, researchers, and scholars descending from the region. Galicnik is the center of the so called Miac region – an area considered to have unique and distinct ethnographic, linguistic and cultural features. The region is famous for its white and yellow cheeses, for the masterpieces of traditional architecture in the form of hand-houses-towers, for the building of churches, fresco painting and the deep carvings of the churches interior. It is famous for its written and oral folklore. The first to immortalize the region was the 19th century poet Grigor Prlichev. His poem “The Serdar” deals with the dark side of Miac’s history and is filled with robbers, outlaws, – and the most famous defender and protector of the people, Kuzman The Kapidan, and his mother, Neda, who mourned his death with great toughness and a sense for freedom.

The Galicnik wedding is a rare example of spiritual folklore turning into a cultural event and saving the village and the region from complete “death”. Because of this summer event, life in Miac, once threatened by modern migration to cities, has been returned. An asphalt road was built in the 1970s and many traditional houses were restored. Recently even new buildings are being built in the traditional style. The local traditions in foods and stock breeding have been revived, and other cultural events like art colonies and cultural events have emerged.

As in its glory days, the village is full of life and people during the summer, during the traditional leisure period from St. Peters to St. Dimitar’s day in November.

With the arrival of the drums and pipes, the wedding, which is combination of pagan and Christian rituals, starts. The bride and the bridegroom are selected by a committee with the criteria that either the bride of groom has to originate from the village. During the two days of celebrating, a number of customs and rituals are followed. They give a glimpse of the richness and atmosphere of a wedding from the past. The modern-day brides participating in this traditional event will have lifelong memories of looking through the ring, giving presents, carrying the dowry and taking the bride. “I’m looking at you through the ring, let me enter your heart”, is the traditional saying. The marriage ceremony attracts many guests. Often it is strengthened with additional cultural events like music performances of folk or ethno singers and bands. The church temple of “St. Petar and St. Pavle” in Galicnik each year welcomes several thousand quests from Macedonia and other countries.

The dance expressing the people’s soul

As part of the wedding the older people from Galicnik dance the “Hard Dance” (Teskoto), a symbolic dance, and wear the costume of the people in this region. While dancing, they are reminded of hardships in the past, of seeking their fortune,  of weddings and of happiness. A few tears roll down their wrinkled cheeks in grief for the past and in happiness that Galicnik still lives.

The Hard One (Teskoto) is considered to be one of the most beautiful and most difficult Macedonian folk dances. In essence, it is devoted to the farewell moments of the Macedonians who were leaving their country to work abroad. The Hard One was danced at the outskirts of the villages, where people made their farewells to their beloved ones before embarking on the road to the unknown hard work abroad. However, over time it developed into a hymn not only of the people who worked abroad, but also of sufferings that piled up in the Macedonian souls through the centuries of subjugation. This folk dance has inspired many artists and poets. Blaze Konevski wrote his outstanding poem “Teskoto” – “The Hard One”) inspired by the dance.

 

Galicnik Wedding from hour to hour

SATURDAY
19.30   DECORATING THE FLAG AND THE RIFLE The top of the flag is decorated with flowers. Then the bridegroom hangs it on the right side of his house and a rifle is fired.
19.45   WELCOMING THE MUSICIANS The musicians start performing from the hotel “Neda” and walk slowly to the bridegroom’s house. The bridegroom, his brother and his friends go to welcome the musicians. The welcoming is at the bride’s house.
20.00   BRIDEGROOM’ S MOTHER DANCE The dance is performed at the “Upija” and it’s led by the bridegroom’s mother. She carries a sieve on her head and a goblet in her hand.
20.30   TAKING THE GIRL TO THE THREE FOUNTAINS A suite of matchmakers with torches go from the bridegroom’s house to the house of the bride. Then together with the girl they go the three fountains.
SUNDAY  
09.00   INVITING THE DEAD RELATIVES A group of the closest relatives and the bridegroom visit the graves of the dead family members. The bridegroom invites them to his wedding.
09.45   INVITING THE GODFATHER After the arrival from the cemetery, the bridegroom, his friends and his closest relatives invite the godfather to the wedding.
10.00   SHAVING THE BRIDEGROOM In front of the “Upija” fountain one of the friends shaves the bridegroom, during which the closest relatives are in sorrow because the shaving is a symbol of separating the boy from his mother and father.
10.15   THE GROOM AND HIS PARTY GO FOR THE BRIDE From the bridegroom’s house a party of over 50 matchmakers go for the bride. The party is led by the standard bearer and his friends on horses. The horses walk slowly in front of the party. Before that one of the friends goes to the bride’s house to ask for permission for the arrival of the matchmakers. On the way back he joins the procession
10.30   ARRIVAL OF THE MATCHMAKERS After the arrival of the matchmakers the standard bearer hands off the flag, which is hung by the window? Then one of the bridegroom’s friends leads his horse in front of the bride’s house where the bride looks at the bridegroom through her ring. The bridegroom kisses the hands of the bride’s parents and then they put a towel over his shoulder.
10.45   THE BRIDE WELCOMS THE MATCHMAKERS In front of the house the bridegroom’s closest relatives sit at a table. The bridegroom’s mother gives presents to the bride and then the bride kisses her hands. After that she is dressed up and ready to go.
11.00   SEDING THE BRIDE WITH THE MATCHMAKERS The bridegroom’s friend informs the matchmakers that the bride’s ready and they are all prepared to go. The bride climbs on a horse. The procession is led by the standard bearer.
11.15   WELCOMING THE BRIDE The bridegroom’s mother welcomes the bride with a sieve, a cake and goblet with wine. She circles around the bride three times tapping her on the head with a cake. Then they put a bridle on her and the bridegroom’s cap. The bride gets off the horse. Then she walks into the house.
11.30   MARRIAGE CEREMONY  The bride, the bridegroom’s mother and father, the standard bearer and other relatives walk to the church. The bridegroom’s mother carries a kettle and a basil bouquet. She spatters the young couple and other guests from the house to the church. A carpet is laid in front the church and a flag is hung on the right side of the door.
12.00   MARRIAGE BANQUET
After the wedding ceremony at the “Upija” there is a wedding banquet. The godfather sits at the head of the table and the bridegroom calls a toast.
12.15   TAKING THE BRIDE TO “UPIJA” AND THEN SHE LEADS THE BRIDAL DANCE The bridegroom’s father and godfather lead the party. The bride is taken to the fountain to fill her water jugs. After that bride leads the brides dance.
12.30   FAREWELL TO THE MUSICIANS After the end of the wedding customs, the closest relatives say goodbye to the musicians.