The Twelfthtide carnival

14/03/2014 16:19

Written by Thammy Evans

Vevčani has held a Twelfthtide carnival on 13 and 14 January every year since the middle of the 6th century. The 12 days after Christmas, which in the Orthodox calendar is on 7 January, are meant to be a time when evil spirits are at their most active with regards to wreaking havoc on the coming year. On New Year’s Eve (13 January in the Orthodox calendar), the villagers start a two-day event designed to banish evil spirits from entering into the new year. People dress up in costumes and masks representing all things evil and unlucky in the hope that if evil is faced with its own reality this will scare it away. The costumes and disguises are a testament to what Macedonians find evil or unlucky. Typical costumes include policemen, soldiers, pregnant brides, an old groom, a funeral procession as well as ghoulish monsters of all varieties. Local politicians and international organisations are ridiculed, and the Ottoman times are also caricatured. A procession of floats starts at midday on the 14th when all sorts of ingenious horror stories are depicted and include tables of human heads, bird flu inspectors (including live chickens) and giant condoms. The procession ends in the village square in the late afternoon with a lot of parading around a fire in which all the costumes are ritually burned.

Concentrating on the banishment of evil as a serious business rather than on the celebration of the end of fasting, this festival has some sinister overtones mixed with alcohol. A fight or two usually breaks out between inhabitants of the upper village and the lower village and it is allegedly the time to punish dogs! Nevertheless, the carnival has started to become a popular national event, attracting over 2,000 visitors every year. When you arrive in the village on the carnival days, you will be stopped by masked men in camouflage uniforms who will ask to see your passport before letting you into the village. The correct passport to show is, of course, the Republic of Vevčani passport, which can be purchased from the masked ‘police’ for 200MKD. Grill and drink stands provide revellers with sustenance through the small hours, and if you have not managed to book yourself (well in advance) a room in the village, then try the Hotel Diplomat outside Struga.

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