Tag Archives: Macedonia

Surva: Dancing for the unripe year

On 14 January, which is both New Year’s Day and the Feast of St. Basil according to the old Orthodox calendar, villagers in Bulgaria and Macedonia perform the costumed ceremonial dance known as  Сурва (Surva, “unripe year”). Children between 4 and 14 years old participate in the малечка Сурва (small Surva), while adults between 15 and 35 perform in the голема Сурва (big Surva).

small surva 3On the eve of the event, youths go from house to house collecting wood for the ceremonial bonfire. In the morning the participants choose their roles and don the corresponding masks and sheepskin capes. The stock characters may include a groom, a bride, a devil, a priest, a gypsy, and a dancer with a bear. To the accompaniment of drums and shawms, the dancers parade through the village with abundant comical antics. The ceremony culminates with a spirited dance around the collective bonfire.

This according to “Сурварските обичаи од неколку струмички села” (Old customs performed on New Year’s day in villages of the Strumičko region) by Ivan Kotev, an essay included in Rad XIX kongresa Saveza Udruženja Folklorista Jugoslavije (Skopje: Združenie na Folkloristite na Makedonija, 1977, pp. 207–212). Below, Surva in Krupnik, Bulgaria.

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Vodici: A midwinter swim

In Macedonia the Synaxis of St. John the Baptist on 7 January is celebrated with Vodici, a musical ceremony that involves the high priest throwing a cross into a nearby body of water.

The waters are baptized through this act, but the real attraction is the local youths plunging into the icy water to retrieve the cross. The one who finds it becomes a local hero, and is believed to be blessed for the entire ensuing year.

This according to “Водичарски обреди и водичарско певање у Македонији” (The Vodici ritual and singing in Macedonia) by Rodna Veličkovska in Научни скуп Дани Владе Милошевића: Зборник радова (The conference Dani Vlade Miloševića: Collection of essays; Banja Luka: Akademija Umjetnosti, 2008).

Below, excerpts from the church and waterside ceremonies in Bitola.

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