January 04, 2008

A Winter's Day

Happy New Year! Our first really significant snowfall arrived just after the first of the year and gave the town and surrounding hills and mountains a very idyllic appearance. As we're both on break right now along with all the other teachers at our respective schools, we've had plenty of time to do lots of snooping around town and we were out in the snow when it was really coming down.

In Macedonia New Year's is a bigger deal than Christmas, which is celebrated according to the Orthodox calendar and this year falls on January 7th. It is on New Year's that Santa Claus visits, though here he is called Дедо Мраз, or Grandfather Ice, which sounds like something a bit sinister (like the Dutch Black Peter) or like a really old rapper coming out of retirement. But really, he's the same ol' Saint Nick, complete with the red-and-white suit and white beard.

With one major exception: on New Year's and Christmas, there isn't really much focus on gifts. Even though Santa does bring presents on December 31st, it's very modest by Western standards. Macedonia is not (yet) a consumer society and so has been spared the near year-round extravaganza that Christmas has become in America. Based on the way stores and street corners are decorated, you'd think it was late October back home, when you find yourself saying, "I can't believe that guy already has his Christmas decorations up!"

So the 31st was a pretty typical New Year's Eve, complete with the Kearneys packing it in with a movie or two (or a season of Lost, in this case). Until midnight, that is, when the firecrackers came out. The kids in town (and all over the country, I assume) collected some sort of ultra-loud firecracker that sounds a bit too much like a gunshot. At the stroke of midnight these things were going off by the hundreds--you'd have thought we were being beseiged or shelled from the surrounding mountain tops.

By 1am it was quiet again and soon after the snow began to fall. This week we'll be traveling back to the village to visit with Lila, Nikola, Ana, and Traiko for Christmas and then heading up to Skopje to see some other volunteers (and shop at the huge, American-style grocery store!). We hope everyone had a safe, fun holiday season.


P.S. If anyone is interested, we can now be reached on Skype, the FREE internet phone service. All you need is a computer microphone and voi-la! (http://www.skype.com/)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ugh, I am soooo behind in reading this blog. I cannot possibly catch up now except to say Happy Belated Birthday Dan...you really are beginning to look like Father Time.

I believe the New Year's I spent with Pat could rival yours... a 2 hour game of Cranium with some steady drinkers (Pat and I remaining uber-competitive and alcohol-free), culminating with Johannah and I attempted to do tripods (a.k.a. 3rd grade headstands), which prompted Johannah to slam into her front door.

Ah, America.

Love you guys and take care! Beth