Let’s go for a swim… in January?

swimming in januarry macedonia

Every year on the 19th of January thousands of men and women, young and old have been turning up early in the morning to witness this unique even where around a hundred participants or so are brave enough to brace themselves for a short swim in the almost freezing waters early in the morning to take the challenge of catching the holy cross. It is believed that whoever catches the cross will be blessed and good luck and fortune will follow.

This Christian holiday known as Bogojavlenie – Vodici is if not one of the most significant events in the Orthodox calendar. This is practiced throughout all Macedonian cities. The main event is held in Ohrid. This spectacular site attracts thousands of tourists every year from all over the world. As a tradition, all over the city warm sweetened rakiya is served for free as a sign of gratitude and for good health. Everyone is welcomed to participate, although locals are to be known to master the technique of catching the cross undoubtedly.

The following day, known as “Tatil” is celebrated by all fishermen to honor the end of the spawning season of the local Ohrid trout. Respecting this tradition, fishing is not allowed between December and January 20th. As a gesture to prove their strength and bravery, all fishermen organize an event where 9 barrels are thrown in the lake where 8 are filled with red wine and 1 with white. The lucky fisherman is the one that will find the one barrel with white wine. To celebrate this, it is tradition to drink pre-heated wine and rakiya as well as fish stew prepared by the fishermen. This year for the first time, this group of fishermen managed to cook two tons of fish stew in one enormous pot. Their aim is to continue this annual event and hopefully one day enter the Guinness book of records.