Today was an epic day!!
Today was one of the big national holidays in Macedonia. It's called the Epiphany celebration, which is in memory of the day Jesus was baptized......on this day, every city sets up shop on its body of water that flows through the town. Priests come and bless the waters. People from all over show up. The priests then bless a small cross before throwing it into the icy waters below. Following the throw, people jump into the waters in hopes of retrieving the cross. The person who catches or finds the cross is said to receive good health and fortune for the entire year. The person who catches the cross then has a few weeks to visit every catholic home. At each home, families are expected to pay at minimum 10 denar to the person. Some families end up paying much more, and some even offer some big bucks in hopes that the person will actually stay the night in their home that night with the cross. All in all, I find the tradition to be extremely interesting!!
So Rob and I set out early this morning in order to get a good spot for the event. We got out there around 9:40 in the morning, and by 10, people were already lined up and down the water. By the time the actual event began, my toes were frozen solid, and people were pressed so hard up against me in order to find a good view of the jump that was to come. We listened to the priest bless the town, the people, and the water. Suddenly, he threw the cross, and about 60 young men jumped into the water below!! I dont know for certain the actual temperature of the water, but I can tell you that there was about an inch of ice over the top of the water....if that says anything about how cold it was!! I was able to capture the entire event on camera, while Rob videoed. Here is the online album from the event:
Cross Throwing Photos
Afterwards, we grabbed a quick cup of tea in the center before heading home for an afternoon nap. Later in the day, we were invited over to my Director's house for an evening of snacking and drinking. We were once again welcomed with the FANTASTIC Bulgarian wine, Bear's Blood. He also ordered some pastrmajlija (google it!!) and presented us with some spicy peppers, homemade sausages, and pickled veggies. We ate and drank for 6.5 hours, and it was a perfect evening!! 3 bottles of wine later, we found ourselves full and satisfied. We slowly made our way home before recounting the amazing events of the day.
Day by day, I find myself amazed at the events I've already witnessed and been a part of in this wonderful country. So many of the experiences are unique in their own ways, and I find myself blessed to be surrounded with people who are so willing to share their hospitality. As most volunteers here may say, I think my placement in Kocani has by far proved to be the perfect place for me. It feels like a home to me, and days like today make me even more excited for the months that will follow.
Next week sparks the beginning of a new semester at school. Our winter break will be over, and my new schedule with the school will begin. On Mondays and Thursdays, I'll be setting up a new dance studio in the basement of the school, running a photo club, leading the Model UN, and meeting with the mayor (fingers crossed) about starting a local animal rescue. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I'll be spending my hours in the classroom, helping my fantastic counterpart. Fridays, I hope will be my flexible day, where I'll simply be where ever I am needed. I'm overly optimistic about the prospects I have in my immediate future....now it's all about putting them into action!!
I simply had to share my good mood with all of you. Hope you all are well. SEND ME EMAILS : )