When you observe the hospitable and welcoming predisposition of Macedonian citizens, curiosity strikes right away – I wonder how these people are celebrating their holidays, how many they actually have, and to what degree these obstruct the normal flow of everyday commerce, business and administration?
The handy guide below lists all of the public Macedonian holidays, their significance and celebratory tradition. It will help you plan upfront, knowing exactly when the country is taking a collective break.
Surely enough, like any nationality close to the Mediterranean, Macedonians like to have their celebrations. But while Macedonian holidays are numerous indeed, only 12 of them enjoy public holiday status. These public holidays maintain religious, national and ethnic tradition, with majority of them based on the orthodox faith.
The fact that some are movable and others have a fixed date, begs the necessity of drawing an annual chart. The one below, as you will notice, is based on the 2018 calendar year.
Macedonian public holidays 2018
The table presented is pretty much self-explanatory, so if you need to have a quick look and orient yourself properly just glance over.
For those of you who like to take a closer look, clicking the name of the holiday will take you down this page for a more detailed explanation. a detailed explanation is available below.
Looking at the table above, you’ll notice 12 Macedonian holidays, signifying religious and national tradition.
If a holiday happens to fall on a weekend, the authorities will issue a proclamation that basically sets the observation on a different day, allowing the country to take a collective break. That being said, even people who are not of orthodox faith are getting a day off when celebrating Christmas of Easter. The same holds true for the Muslim holiday of Eid Al Fitr (the end of Ramadan).
Some of the ethnic and religious holidays are enjoyed by specific communities, but the public holidays provide a mandatory break regardless of your ethnic or religious background. The Macedonian holidays are regulated by the Law on Holidays in the Republic of Macedonia, 2007. It is this law which permits the authorities to proclaim additional non-working days for holidays if they are officially published.
The religious holidays are often celebrated traditionally in both the capital of Skopje, as well as around the country. Some of the national holidays are celebrated exclusively at specific locations, like for example Meckin Kamen near Krushevo, respecting historical context and tradition.
Macedonian public holidays described
Going over the public holidays in Macedonia, we will try and reflect on the meaning of each, describing the general perception, importance, and cultural appreciation.
New Year’s Day
Observing the Gregorian calendar as all other countries in the world (except Israel), Macedonians are celebrating New Year’s Day as a public holiday. The celebration traditionally starts at 00:00, with fireworks, music and public square concerts – majority of which have been discontinued recently, for the reason of charity donations. A practice described by many locals as an act of virtue signaling, and populist moves by a sharply divided political spectrum.
Orthodox Christmas Day (often googled as Macedonian Christmas)
Observed every year on the 7th of January, Macedonians are celebrating the birth of Christ. The celebration is humble and confined to religious temples only, as opposed to the western consumerism craze happening around the holidays. If there is a parallel to be drawn, you can find much similarity to western enthusiasm with Christmas with the celebration of the New Year’s Eve in Macedonia.
Much of this, as many believe, boils down to communist rule partly prohibiting excessive religion appreciation. Macedonia is long past the years of communism, but tradition seems to hold on.
Orthodox Easter Monday
The date itself is movable, and it changes every year. For 2018, the Orthodox Easter Day is celebrated on the 8th of April (Sunday – the day of week is fixed and never changes), and the public holiday is established on Monday the 9th of April, being a non-working day.
Easter, traditionally, is celebrated on midnight where many people gather inside and around every active church, to pray and wait for the resurrection of Christ. The traffic in Skopje is largely obstructed, for crowds of people are walking on the streets, visiting churches located in the city center.
Groups of friends, family and teenagers are covering the center, many of which are not paying attention to the religious aspect of the gathering, but are enjoying the social nature of the event.
The following day is considered the 2nd day of Easter (which is celebrated for 3 days in a row), where the family comes together for lunch. Recently, the trend is for people to flock the southern border, heading towards neighboring Greece, for a 2-3 day vacation.
Since Great Friday (observed by Orthodox Christians, and established as a non-working day for the people of the Orthodox faith) extends the weekend, which is further prolonged by the public holiday observed in Monday, many people decide to treat themselves with a short vacation. Putting this into consideration, we can say that the conservative tradition of Macedonians is definitely changing its shape.
May Day, which is associated with the commemoration of the achievements of the labor movement, is celebrated in over 80 countries as a public holiday. It is also known as Labor Day, or International Worker’s Day.
In the States, the observation is moved to September, as to avoid commemorating some of the deadliest riots, while in Russia the holiday is meat to symbolize solidarity with the worker class.
In Macedonia, however, there is little appreciation of the ideological background of the holiday. It is, instead, a day reserved for weekend gateways (when the calendar year is gracious enough to place it next to a weekend), or hedonistic picnics in nature.
Saint Cyril and Methodius Day
Celebrated in both Bulgaria and Macedonia, this is a day of culture and literacy as much as it is of religious tradition. Observed on the 24th of May, it is also known as the Alphabet Day, proclaimed as a public holiday only in Macedonia.
Two Byzantine brothers born in the 9th century, Cyril and Methodius went as missionaries to present day Ukraine, spreading Christianity among the Slavic peoples of Great Morava, Pannonia and Bulgaria.
Credited with devising the Glagolitic alphabet (precursor to the Cyrillic, named after Cyril), the transcribed religious book spreading both faith and literacy. As of today, over 300 million people use the Cyrillic script.
Eid al Fitr
Marking the end of Ramadan and the fast, the date of Eid depends on the sighting of the moon, with slight variations in the exact time of celebration around the world.
The law of holidays of the republic of Macedonia announced in the year 2007, established this as the first Muslim holiday elevated to the rank of a public holiday, making it a non-work day for people from all religious backgrounds.
Macedonian Republic Day
Marking two important events from Macedonian history – the Ilinden uprising in 1903 and the Republic establishment in1944 – this holiday is also known for its religious significance. Marking the prophet Elijah’s ascension into heaven, it is therefore known as Ilinden (or Saint Elijah’s Day – translated from Macedonian).
The formal celebrations take place in Krushevo, on Meckin Kamen (Bear’s Rock), where the famous battle with the ottoman army took place during the 1903 uprising. Ethnic music and traditional Macedonian clothing are often decorating the celebration.
Macedonian Independence Day
Celebrating the referendum for independence in 1991, the Macedonian Independence Day marks the beginning of the modern Republic of Macedonia. When it falls on a weekend, the government additionally announces the observation day.
The country gained its independence from Yugoslavia, where within its borders it was only a federal state. After the Independence Day, Macedonia became a sovereign parliamentary democracy.
Taking place on September the 8th, 1991, over 95% of the voters have chosen Independence from Yugoslavia, granting Macedonia the only peaceful separation from the union, while the region has succumbed to conflict. Several official events are held, celebrating national pride.
Revolution day (Day of uprising)
Celebrated on the 11th of October, this is the day of the uprising against the fascist aggressor, when in 1941 armed insurgents form Prilep attacked Axis occupied zones in the city. The resistance continued well into the following years, lasting until the end of the war in 1994.
No significant celebration events are held during this day.
Day of the Macedonian revolution
Commemorating the establishment of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO – or VMRO in Macedonian), this day is celebrating the historical and patriotic importance of this liberation movement operating within the Ottoman Empire.
The organization was founded by Dame Gruev, Hristo Tatarchev, Peter Pop-Arsov, Andon Dimitrov, Ivan Hadzinikolov and Hristo Batandzhiev. It is celebrated on the 23rd of October, without excessive formality and celebratory events.
The day of the Macedonian revolution is only recently established as a public holiday, thanks to the right wing party bearing the name of the historic organization.
Saint Clement of Ohrid
A disciple of Saint Cyril and Methodius, St. Clement of Ohrid was born in 840. He was leading one of the Slavonic schools established by the Bulgarian King Boris, and is commonly accredited with inventing the Cyrillic alphabet.
An important figure in Macedonian history and Orthodox religion, the date for commemorating his name is celebrated as a public holiday in the Republic of Macedonia, on the 8th of December. Other important Macedonian holidays
Following the presentational concept from above, let us first look at the list. Below are some of the important holidays in Macedonia, which bear significance across religious, ideological, and ethnic background.
Starting with respect to chronology, we will cover every significant Macedonian holiday whether it is religious, ethnic or ideological in nature.
You will also notice that many of the Christian faith holidays are celebrated on different days when compared to the west. This is due to the Macedonian orthodox calendar, which follow the Julian calendar as opposed to the Gregorian calendar.
Christmas Eve (orthodox)
Also known as the day before Christmas, where Orthodox Macedonians are immersed into celebrating and enjoying the holiday spirit. It starts the night before where pagan-like fires are being burned in startling proximity to urban landscape. People are enjoying Macedonian beverages and sometimes an excess of food out in the open, which goes against religious tradition of fasting before Christmas.
Anyway, the event would end in the early hours of the following day, and children would start their Kolede caravan – groups of kids going from one door to another, singing songs and asking for treats.
The evening is reserved for the family dinner, where a generous feast is being held, followed by the breaking of bread – a ritual where one family member gets to have the coin hidden in the loaf of bread. It is believed that good fortune will come his way all throughout the entire year.
It is a non-working day for the people of the orthodox faith.
Celebrated on the 19th of January, it is a non-working day for the people of Orthodox faith. Symbolizing the baptism of Christ, a wooden cross is thrown into water, where men jump and try to retrieve it.
The spectacle attracts a lot of people, both in the capital of Skopje, as well as the town of Ohrid, where it is held in the Lake.
Saint Sava’s Day
Celebrated by the Serbian community in the country, it is a non-working day of religious nature. Serbian people are hosting domestic festivities, but no other celebrations are being held. It is celebrated on the 27th of January.
Saint Valentine’s Day / Saint Trifun’s day
Whereas the Catholic Church is celebrating Saint Valentine, the Orthodox is celebrating Saint Triffun, the patron of gardeners and an ideal of youth and persistence towards the Christian faith.
Recent trends, however, are changing rapidly, with more young Macedonians adopting the celebration of Saint Valentine – not as a religious holiday, but rather a modern society trend. It is celebrated on the 14th of February.
Mothers’ Day / International Women’s Day
Celebrated on the 8th of March, this is a holiday that many Macedonians are ideologically unfamiliar with. They, instead, celebrate the formal tradition of gifting women, and especially mothers.
April fool’s Day
While it is largely unnoticed, this day is fairly significant to children. The majority of Macedonian elementary schools would encourage masquerades and parents are paying much attention to prepare their children.
International Romani Day
Celebrated on the 8th of April, this holiday is commemorated by the Romani community. No significant events are being held.
Saint George’s Day
Celebrated on the 6th of May, it is a holiday of the orthodox faith that many people celebrate domestically. It is interesting to note that the Romani community is celebrating it as well.
Vlach’s National Day
Similar to that of the Romani, the Vlach’s National day is celebrated on the 23rd of May, but without significant celebratory events.
Mother Mary’s ascension
Celebrated on the 28th of August, this is a non-working holiday for the people of the Orthodox faith. It is often commemorated with going to church, and enjoying colorful bazars sprouting around many of the churches around the cities.
It is especially respected by women from the orthodox faith.
Commemorated each Friday before the Memorial Day, it is a time when people from the orthodox faith are visiting the graves of their family members, paying respect and saying prayers.
Day of the Albanian alphabet
Celebrated by the Albanian ethnicity, the 22nd of November is a non-working day for Albanians who decide to take a day off.
Other celebrations in Macedonia
Being warm and welcoming people, the citizens of Macedonia are very eager when it comes to celebrating important life events.
It is not a rare sight to see a downtown crossroad blocked for several minutes, due to a caravan of people heading to a wedding festival.
The weddings are glamorous and traditional at the same time, and they usually host more than 100 people. Even this number can be legitimately considered as a small wedding according to Macedonian standards.
The Macedonian name day is also a peculiar event. When people decide to celebrate their Christian name by giving respect to the Saint, they organize domestic feasts with up to 50 people or around 20 or so on average. Dozens of these are within the Macedonian orthodox calendar.
Christenings, or baptisms, are also important in Macedonia, and they attract a relatively large group of people as well. The equivalent significance perhaps, can be seen in Muslim circumcision days, when young boys are being circumcised as part of a religious ritual.
It is also a Macedonian custom to organize a feast after the birth of a child, usually within a period of one to three days.
The prom celebrations are also important, and parents seem to be having as much fun as their children who are then turning into adults. College graduation, though comparatively less significant, attracts unexpected amount of attention as well. Strangely enough, considering that most of the youth is either having or studying to obtain a degree.
Fasts are also common for Macedonians from the Orthodox community, and it is surprising how many of them are devoted to complete abstention from meat, dairy and different types of refined oils. Expect sporting events to attract a lot of attention as well, since these are few of the opportunities for uniting under a national sense of pride.
Comes Friday, expect the bulk of the youth to be drinking, partying and enjoying the Macedonian nightlife.
We hope this extensive guide covers the important holidays in Macedonia, giving you enough information to plan your stay and understand the religious, national and ethnic traditions of the country.
An outdoor junkie and an adventurous spirit who loves the mountain. Slavko regularly talks about travel, lifestyle design, holistic health and fitness. You can find his writings on popular magazines around the net, and his regular guides and columns in The Lifestyle Updated.