1. The Galičnik Wedding Festival
Back in the good old days, the villagers of Galičnik had only one day each year when North Macedonian couples could get married: the 12th of July. These days, starry-eyed lovers can take their vows on whichever day they please, but for one lucky couple, a traditional wedding ceremony is still a possibility. Held on the weekend closest to the 12th of July, the Galičnik Wedding Festival commemorates the custom with dances, elaborate dresses and a horse bridle being placed on the bride as a test of her obedience. Any North Macedonian couple that has already been married in the civil service can apply for the role of an official couple, with the winning entrant generally being the one with the prettiest bride.
2. Tikveski Grozdober (Grape Carnival)
Each September, Kavadarci, a small town in North Macedonia’s seriously scenic wine-growing region, plays host to the Tikveški Grozdober festival. A celebration of both the town’s liberation and the beginning of the grape harvest, the festival swells with food stalls and music concerts and culminates in an extravagantly costumed carnival procession through the town’s main streets. Oh, and much wine drinking.
3. Ilinden National Festival of Song and Dance
The oldest folk festival in the country, the Ilinden Days, is a celebration of all the folk cultural edifices that have come to represent North Macedonian identity over the years. Folk songs and dancing take centre stage here, all performed in traditional garb with traditional instruments. Held over four days, it provides a fascinating insight into traditional North Macedonian culture, as well as serves to preserve its history.
4. Pivo Fest Prilep Beer Fest
North Macedonia’s breweries aren’t as prolific as its wineries, but beer is still a pretty big player in national culture and deemed worthy of a festival. The first Pivo Fest Prilep was held in 2003 and, in contrast to many of the country’s other tradition-orientated festivals, the focus here is on live music, grilled meats, skimpy attire and ales abundant. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s now one of the most popular summer events in the country.
5. Carnival Procka
Kicking off three days before the Easter fast begins, the Procka Carnival, which is also held in Prilep, is a celebration of the unconditional forgiveness demonstrated by Jesus for his fellow humans. During this brief holiday, the young ask for forgiveness from their elders, who reply by saying ‘you are forgiven from me and from God.’ If this all sounds a bit sombre (not to mention presumptuous), there are also great feasting opportunities in preparation for the fasting ahead and things are livened up with parades of highly decorative ‘anything goes’ costumes.