Galicnik wedding celebration in Macedonia. Photo by Aleksandar Donev for National Geographic

“A tenuous grip on tradition and culture”

The online version of National Geographic magazine published a wonderful article in early June about the Galicnik Wedding Festival of Macedonia which is held every July. The article includes some history, detailed descriptions, and many beautiful photos of the celebration and quotes Tanja Lepcheska whose paternal grandfather is from Galicnik. She says “People who enjoyed their lives and lived a simple life always crave for their roots — whether it is to check in with people from their community, practice their traditions, or be reminded of the place that brought peace in their hearts.” The author of the article, Alex Crevar, writes that “The beauty lies in taking the time to readjust and re-secure a tenuous grip on tradition and culture.”

Isn’t that a simple yet poignant line? “Taking the time” he writes, “to readjust and re-secure a tenuous grip on tradition and culture.” To me this means that in our much-too-busy world, in a world in which the over-culture (including the increasing crassness that it is) is trampling on things that are right and true, this is a profound reminder that, if we do not cherish, protect, and nurture our traditions and cultures, then indeed they are in danger of disappearing altogether. Our identities, and in particular the Macedonian identity, can also be viewed this way as well. Just as living in a free society means you must cherish, protect, and nurture that freedom — and hand it down to the next generation so that they can hand it down to the next generation and to generations yet unborn — so too with identity. All of these things — our traditions, culture, names, identity, freedoms — all of these things are both precious and tenuous, especially when they are merely taken for granted. Which is why we must constantly be cherishing (holding tightly and not taking for granted), protecting (in many different ways), nurturing (caring for and encouraging growth), and handing down in a variety of ways all of these things. Otherwise we are in grave danger of losing them all.

Here’s an interesting lesson: in the Old Testament Book of Daniel (where, oddly, Alexander the Great is mentioned, though not, ironically, by name) we can learn about the importance of names and identity. In Daniel 1 we read of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar who sacked Jerusalem in 589 BC year and later took with him about 25 percent of the population, along with many religious articles from the Jewish temple. Back in Babylon, he ordered the chief of his court officials to find young men from the Israelite royalty and nobility so that they could be trained in the ways of the Babylonian Kingdom, brought up to be servants of the king. We read in verses six and seven, “Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.”

“New names.” One can find much commentary on why Nebuchadnezzar had their names changed but I think we all know why — because he conquered them and now they belonged to him and his kingdom; Nebuchadnezzar was merely exercising his dominion over them. One commentary notes that their “names were changed as a way of encouraging them to forget the God and traditions of their homeland and become conformed to the ways and gods of Babylon. It was a forced assimilation; Nebuchadnezzar wanted Daniel and his friends to ‘conform to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2), and a name change was one step toward that goal.’”

It doesn’t take a lot of thought, insight, or even wisdom to understand that this is what the Greeks want of Macedonia and the Macedonians. Simply stated, the Greek goal, the ultimate goal, is to wipe out and eradicate the Macedonian identity in all of its forms, in Macedonia, and around the world. And there are two ways of accomplishing this, and they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. One way is to keep Macedonia out of NATO and the EU and hope that it is eventually divided, internally at first, and then externally, and with as little spillover as possible into Greece in the case of a war. A second way is to have Macedonians voluntarily change their own name, identity, constitution, and everything else. At that point the Greeks will then work over time and overtime to overcome the insistence by the Macedonians that they are Macedonians. The Greeks will also work over time and overtime to overcome the tendency and desire by the world, today, to call Macedonia, Macedonia, and the Macedonians, Macedonians.

Even without this Greek insistence that there are no Macedonians and that there is no Macedonian identity, language, culture, etc. the hold on all of these precious things is, indeed, tenuous and fragile. Granted these same things are tenuous and fragile for other peoples in other countries as well. But given the constant barrage from the Greeks, from many in the West, and from some even in Macedonia against Macedonia’s name and identity, it becomes ever more necessary to hold on tightly to these things, protect and encourage them, and pass them on. Combine that with a great deal of seeming indifference from some Macedonians to these precious things and it becomes absolutely vital to cherish, protect, and nurture them so that they can be handed down to generations yet unborn.

Proud American & Arizonan w/Hungarian ethnicity & passion for Macedonia, Hungary & Estonia. Traveler, PR man, history buff & wine, craft beer & cigar enthusiast