We Macedonian love to celebrate for anything, even for the smallest things we make it a big thing out of it. The main reason is we love to be around other people. We enjoy company, music, dancing and especially the food. Every free day that we have it is the best spent with family and friends outdoors grilling and having fun. Even bad weather can’t stop us, there are restaurants or in the comfort of our homes. In fact, you don’t really know when someone comes to your door and nock just to have a nice cup of coffee and a good and warming conversation.
Macedonia is a Christian country (orthodox) and everyone tries their best to respect and follow in the Christian path no matter how busy this world has become. We don’t just celebrate Christmas and Easter we respect all saint’s days. Almost every family has its own saint that they celebrate as their guardian. On the saints day (or the day before) a priest comes to our home and we have homemade bread and boiled wheat ready on the table. He then reads – sings from the bible and sanctifies the bread and the wheat with red wine. This type of saint’s day celebration is called “slava” (loosely translated Glory). Where this is going? Be patient.
On the day of “slava”, (some homes day before and after too) we are waiting for guests to arrive. It is said that you don’t invite for “slava”, you do it only once, to inform them that you are celebrating a saint’s day. Everyone is welcomed.
However, at home the preparation for this day started even a lot earlier, especially depending on how busy the family is with work. All that preparation is for the table, and what we are going to serve. It is a big deal. Especially the hardest part is if the saint’s day falls on a day of fasting. But one thing at a time. Let me tell you first the main thing and one of the most important parts of the “slava” and then I will continue with all the other traditional meals that you can find on that table.
“Pchenica” – wheat is a symbol that most homes prepare to serve people before they are asked what are they going to have for a drink. This boiled wheat and then grounded. Then we add icing sugar, ground walnuts, and nutmeg. Then it is shaped let’s say like a cake and then we decorate it. It tastes amazing, really.
2. Kiflici (crescent)
We make a lot of kifli, and placed on the table instead of bread (every meal here is served with bread) but kifli are even better. They are soft and tasty and some are filled with white cheese.
At least 2-3 different salads. It can be anything, starting from “shopsksa” (tomatoes, cucumber, and white cheese), mixed salad (cabbage, beetroot, and carrots), to creamy salads like “taratur”, “Ruska Salata”, “macaroni salad”, “potato salad”, etc. These are appetizers and are mostly eaten as starters with a good quality of “rakia” (Macedonian brandy that is 50%-60% alcohol).
4. Meat, lots of it
Patties, pork ribs, chicken, lamb, meat rolls, you name it. Most of them are cooked using a traditional recipe but today we also try to experiment and get something new.
Cakes, cookies, “baklava”, “Tulumba”, “eclairs”, etc. If we have time we do everything at home but if not we order and we try to find someone who makes them homemade and not as the store bought.
“Rakia”, Beer, white wine, red wine, vodka, cognac, sparkling water, soft drinks, etc. If you have the chance to be a guest at this celebration you will be offered many types of drinks, you will feel like you are at the bar. Macedonian people take pride in the different alcoholic beverages and I can say for sure that they are a lot stronger compared to many other hard drinks around the world.
And all this is served and placed on the table at once. All the dining and eating is filled with laughter, excitement, love, and joy. Plus if a good song is playing you will definitely hear singing and see even dancing.
Lastly, what about those days when that special saint’s day falls on a day of fasting? Well, we don’t serve anything that is an animal product. Meaning, no meat, milk and milk products, eggs, etc. you got the point. This is harder for the host to prepare because there aren’t many options, but as the main meal fish is allowed to be served. In this case “pastramka” it is. This is Ohrid Trout that is widely known for being one of the best trout on the Balkan and not just here in Macedonia.
If you have a chance to be a guest at “slava” don’t wait to be asked twice because you won’t. They will be expecting you to come and in my opinion, don’t miss it because one way to get the best traditional food and be part of Macedonian culture is being a guest on this special day.