The children ring the doorbell with gusto and wait expectantly to receive treats in reward for singing a song,” says an Alliance worker in one Balkan country. “Sounds like Halloween, doesn’t it? Well, it’s actually Christmas Eve, January 6, and another Kolede tradition.”

Christmas here is celebrated according to the Julian calendar on January 7. Preparations for Christmas in Macedonia start on January 5 as people gather around the Kolede bonfires, drink warm rakija, or whiskey, and sing songs. A coin is kneaded into Bannock bread, which is baked, torn into pieces, and distributed among the festive participants. The person whose bread contains the coin is named best man of Kolede Eve. The ritual is blessed by the Orthodox priest, and the pyre is lit. In the early morning hours of the next day, children go from door to door singing Kolede carols, heralding the birth of Jesus, and receiving fruits, nuts, and candy from the people. “Some of the village children head out as early as 2 or 3 a.m.,” says our worker.

The Kolede tradition has its roots in old Slavic folk religion, which taught that the spirits of those who had died would awaken and roam the earth, going from house to house looking for food. However, today’s version of the bonfire and children going door-to-door to sing and receive treats is more for the fun of tradition with no religious connotation beyond the fact that it is Christmas time.

Alliance workers, along with the Evangelical Church of Macedonia (ECM), have begun a new tradition they hope will capture the hearts of the people who don’t know that the curse of death and all its superstitions was rendered fruitless because of Jesus. “For the expatriate community that celebrates Christmas on December 25,” says the worker, “there really has been nothing available for them in the past. December 25 is just another work day.”

This year the international church, which was planted a year ago by Alliance workers in partnership with ECM, had a special Christmas Eve service with 140 people in attendance. Also, a Christmas Day concert, hosted by ECM, was open to the public. Flyers had been posted throughout the town, and the concert hall was packed with 750 people, many of whom were nonbelievers.

“A young girl who gave her testimony told the crowd that if they felt alone or tossed away, they have a true and real friend in Jesus Christ, who cares for them,” the worker relates. After the concert, people lingered, enjoying the refreshments and fellowship. “Good seeds were planted and watered,” says the worker. “We look forward to the day when there will be a great harvest.”


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