Friday, 19 October 2018 | News today: 3

New York Times: Macedonia’s Wedding Festival in Galicnik among 9 European Festivals worth traveling for

The New York Times has listed 9 European festivals that it recommends for every tourist. Among them is Macedonia’s Wedding Festival in Galicnik.


By any standard, Galicnik, Macedonia, is tiny. Only two year-round residents live in this mountain settlement hidden on the remote Bistra massif about six miles east of the Albanian border. During the village’s annual wedding festival — held on the weekend nearest July 12, or St. Peter’s Day for Orthodox Christians — the population explodes. Thousands of travelers and returning countrymen fill the otherwise quiet houses that cling to steep hillsides for a three-day blur of revelry, rites, processions and pageantry culminating with the marriage of a previously selected couple with roots in the settlement, The New York Times’ reporter writes.

“The festival started in the 1950s using customs that are centuries old,” said Marko Bekric, the grandson of the only year-round residents. From May to November, Mr. Bekric operates cycling and hiking tours here and helps run the family’s guesthouse and restaurant. “It began so people from the village, who had immigrated or moved away, could come back, get married, and continue our traditions. In the early days, dozens of weddings would take place.”

The expected dates for this year’s wedding festival are Friday, July 13 to July 15.

When the sun sets on Friday, musicians playing traditional horns and drums — called zurli and tapani, respectively — file into a banquet hall-size gazebo of revelers surrounded by horses tethered to rough-sawn fence rails. Platters of grilled meat vie for table space next to trays of beer and bottles of local grappa, called rakija. The rising wall of primal rhythm inspires partyers to mount tables, shout approval and lock arms while waving sparklers. The music also becomes the festival’s constant soundtrack: a call-and-response woven from generations of tribal fabric.

A full program of scheduled rituals continues for the next two days — each accompanied by processions of men and women, and girls and boys in traditional regalia. The men wear thick woolen trousers and tunics. The women wear 60-pound brocaded dresses, some more than 300 years old, that have been passed down for generations.

Symbolic ceremonies include hanging a flag and firing a rifle, shaving the bridegroom on the main square, hiking to the cemetery to invite the dead to the wedding, and sending the bride on horseback, with dowry, to her soon-to-be husband’s house before walking to St. Peter and Paul Church.

“When those horns and drums start playing I still get goose bumps,” said Tanja Lepcheska, whose brother was married here last year. Since her father’s family is from Galicnik, she is a possible candidate for this year’s wedding. “This ceremony is something that is just ours. It cannot be taken away.”