Every year, on the religious holiday St. Peter's Day (12 July), the migrant workers from the village of Galicnik, situated in the Bistra mountains in the picturesque Mijak area, gather from around the world to marry their beloveds and partake in the wedding ceremonies, which are filled with a variety of customs, rites and spiritual messages.
Although this celebration has neither an official sponsor nor an organisational board, it has persisted for the last 50 years, attracting an increasing number of foreign tourists and local visitors each year, all gathering to see this picturesque region and hear the sounds of the zurlas (an oboe-like woodwind instrument) and the drums. Many visitors choose to camp in the local area in order to observe the entire event.
At this year's 50th jubilee edition of the festival, Danica Tortevska and Trajche Lozanoski took the vows in the spirit of the Galicnik tradition. Both the bride and the groom wore the well-known Galicnik costumes; the bridal costume alone weighs about 30 kg.
Traditionally, torches are lit the night before the wedding to illuminate the village alleys and to act as heralds of the great wedding day to follow. In addition, the banner to be carried at the front of the wedding procession is also decorated.
The beginning of the wedding is marked by the invitation of the godfather. The godfather must be invited with a jug of rakija (an alcoholic beverage that is produced by distillation of fermented fruit) with colourful flowers.
What follows is the ritual shaving of the groom's beard, which symbolises the separation from his family to form a family of his own. This is carried out in the middle of the village, near the fountain "Upija."
According to custom, a coin is placed on the groom's hat as a sign of wealth. The weddings have been known to last for seven days.
The procession ritual involves visiting the bridal home to take the bride. The procession is led by the band and a standard-bearer.
The groom and the godfather enter the bridal home, while the bride watches the groom through the ring and pronounces the words: "May I see you through this ring and enter your heart."
Having arrived at the bride's house, the wedding guests break the bread. They drink wine and rakija and eat the world renowned cheese from Galicnik. The bride is presented with copious gifts, among which there is always a mirror and a comb.
The bride is traditionally carried from her home to the groom's house on horseback, along with her dowry, which is packed in large chests.
The procession stops in the middle of the village where the mother-in-law greets her daughter-in-law with a round loaf of bread placed on a sieve. Then she says the words: "By this bread you will be obedient."
As the procession continues to the church, the mother-in-law traditionally carries a jug of water and a bouquet of colourful flowers.
The bride and the groom are married in the St. Peter and Paul Church, in the spirit of the Orthodox Christian customs.
This year's event patron was Macedonia President Gjorge Ivanov, and it was attended by numerous foreign ambassadors, as well as thousands of tourists.
One of the most impressive parts of the Galichnik Wedding Festival is the dance of the oro (song) "Teshkoto." The dance to this oro takes place both at sendoff and at welcome of the migrant workers, and it embodies the trials, tribulations and perseverance of the Macedonian people.