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Vevcani Carnival
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Vevcani Carnival

vevcani carnival in strugaFor over 1,400 years the Vevcani Carnival has been an interesting mix of paganism and modernism. It is held on 13 and 14 January (on the eve and the first day of the New Year, according to the old calendar). The main characteristics of the carnival are: archaism, secretiveness, and improvisation. Its particular features distinguish it from any other carnival worldwide. The home setting of the carnival events is the village of Vevcani, which turns into a boundless theatre, where each house and street is a scene on which disguised people perform plays like real actors.

There are three traditional masks: bridegroom and bride, August the Stupid, and musicians. Other masks are basically major or minor carnival groups, which, by means of their costumes, gesticulations, and moves usually symbolize and ridicule social events and figures.

The role of August the Stupid is particularly distinct. Young energetic people wear this mask and communicate with the audience by means of peculiar movements, gesticulations, and screams.

During the carnival, the disguised participants enjoy every freedom and passion to “place the world upside down” -- a freedom of spirit and creativity and a sense of improvisation, criticism, and sarcasm. Officially, women do not participate in the carnival -- they do disguise, but unlike men, do not take off their masks in the end.

In 1993, the Vevcani Carnival and the village of Vevcani joined the World Federation of Carnival Cities under the Republic of Macedonia's constitutional name, despite Greece's disapproval. Closely afterward, Vevcani raised an initiative for the formation of a national carnival association, covering also Strumica, Prilep, and other places, endeavoring to revive the carnival tradition. Vevcani Mayor Vasil Radinoski was the first president of the Macedonian Carnival Association.

carnival in vevcaniThrough its representatives and carnival groups, the Vevcani Carnival has been presented in other places in the world, while Vevcani has hosted foreign carnival groups, as well.
The Vevcani Carnival was the main inspiration for a seminar held in 1996 called “Customs Under Masks,” attended by local and foreign ethnological experts, who presented the main features of the carnival: traditional masks, the appearance of social figures, and elements composing the original contents of the custom. Of course, they made their observation of the innovations incorporated in the traditional custom. The Vevcani Carnival, a particular theatre without walls, has never experienced a cancellation of a performance. With every passing year it attracts increased interest both in the country and abroad.

In addition to the actors themselves, it owes its popularity also to numerous journalist teams, cameramen, and photo-reporters. French ethnologist and photo-reporter Jean-Mari Stenlen visited Vevcani and publicized the story of Vevcani in the Paris Bobur and in other cultural centres of Europe in 1984. His story immortalized the carnival events in an artistic way. He recorded the masks and the events in a spontaneous manner and with a great skill, offering the world a document on Vevcani’s distinctness and the models' harmony with the perfect simplicity of Vevcani’s environment. Several photos of original masks from the Vevcani Carnival by this author were included in the great encyclopedia of European carnivals, published in Paris in 1986.

On the occasion of this carnival, foreign-based natives from Vevcani come home from all over the world in order to take part in the unique performance, abundantly drowned in red wine, which has enough room for every carnival-loving guest.


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