This past weekend was Orthodox Easter (they work on a different liturgical calendar). Justin wrote about the traditions here, so I'll just mention a few things that interested me.
Easter Eggs- Justin explains, they also make Easter Eggs here, and they can be quite elaborately decorated. The interesting part is what they do with them. At midnight, after the priest finishes reading the Gospels, everybody pulls out their decorated egg and cracks it - bottom to bottom, and top to top - with their friend or family member. The egg that does crack 'wins', and moves on to challenge the next egg. This is apparently the highlight for Macedonian children, and brings them great honor at school the next day. There's a lot of cheating, unfortunately - some children purchase and decorate carved wooden eggs in order to decimate the competition.
Candles - I went to the main downtown church, which always draws a big crowd. The Roma were selling candles at the street corners near the church. You pick up a candle, and either light it from the main candle inside the church, or from another person who has done the same. There's a legend that, if you put the leftover stub of wax underneath your pillow that night, you will dream of the person you will marry. Also, Macedonians don't know the words to "This Little Light of Mine", and don't seem to appreciate a little gospel in their Gospel.
MEAT - The most amusing part of the whole evening is the rush to break the Lenten Fast. A great majority of people don't fast at all; some will cut out all meat, dairy, oil and alcohol, others just one of the above. And they may only fast for a shorter period within Lent. Nonetheless, Macedonians refuse to let an opportunity for grilled meat go to waste, and just after cracking the eggs, everyone rushes off to get that first delicious plate of sharska or kebap. The restaurants are open until 3 or 4am, and mobile meat vans set up around the city as well. And, of course, some people overdo it:
A 47 year-old male ended up in hospital on early Monday morning after a long night of festivities, overindulging in three kilos of meat and ten eggs to mark the end of Orthodox Easter fasting.