January 19th is a very important day in the world for believers who follow the Julian calendar. Today, Orthodox Macedonians celebrate Epiphany or “Vodici”. The day that according to the Christian tradition, St. John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ in the river of Jordan.
Wonder Where Travel team wants to share with you some amazing and unusual experiences from Macadonia, and following you will learn more about our local hero, Ivona. This year, due to the cancellation of public events including Epiphany, Ivona Jakimovska Stojanoska from Prilep will tell us the tradition through her story.
Ivona lives in Prilep. She is only 22 years old. Everything started when she was only 17 years old. Full of faith, at this age she entered the holy waters regardless of low temperatures. Since then, she repeated her celebration of Epiphany side by side to the male Christians in her hometown, Prilep and in 2019 she celebrated in Koper, Slovenia.
This celebration and being part of this ritual was Ivona’s wish for many years. She received support from the whole family, mostly from her parents. According to her, this ritual has bigger purpose which is not to have at any cost the Holy Cross in her hands, but the strong faith in God who helps her to gather courage and enter the cold holy waters.
From her point of view, this day has a special meaning. If you were there, you will see her together with 99,9% of male Orthodox Christians. Somehow, she is a girl crossing the traditional tabu. She is the rare example which gives us the hope of the women Lead. Her main focus on “Vodici” are not the participants, but the holy water, the symbolic celebration of the Baptizing of Jesus Christ in the river Jordan, the holy spirit and the faith in God.
Being side by side with men is by default a success for any woman. This is where the stereotypes that women should not take part in such religious rituals are shattered. These stereotypes and as you read the text, many of you will still agree with this.
Ivona says that she participated in Prilep with several other girls, which means that she wasn’t the only one. While in Slovenia, she jumped into the waters as the only female participant.
“The people in Slovenia came to congratulate me on my courage because I was the only woman,” said Ivona. “I also received a gift for my participation, which showed that the people and the organizers there valued my move,” she added.
For her, the most important thing is to be physically prepared. One should be careful of the way that enters in the water; the body should be cooled beforehand so that it can more easily accept the drastic change of the temperature.
She hasn’t experienced any health changes over the past years, and the Orthodox Christians believe that everyone who enters in the Holy waters on this holiday will be healthy the entire year.
Due to the pandemic this tradition is temporarily paused and the most massive and the most celebrated events in Ohrid and Skopje, that every year are visited by thousands of people from the entire country and visitors from around the world, this year will be marked on a symbolic way.
Every year, the city of Ohrid is considered to be the number one destination for January 19th, for the celebration of the Epiphany. In the previous years, this holiday was organized by the Diocese of Debar and Kicevo in accordance with the religious provisions, as well as the city of Ohrid, which was responsible for the whole organization.
We must mention that in Ohrid, after the casting of the Holy Cross, the other day, it is held the so called traditional bathing of the fishermen and on this day all the guests are offered a free plate of traditional fish soup made in a huge cauldron on the small square.
Epiphany is considered to be one of the biggest Christian holidays. It ends the 12 so-called unbaptized days and the cycle of the winter holidays such as Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year (Vasilica) and others. On this day, the Orthodox Christians believe that the heaven opens, God appears, and people turn to Him to fulfill their wishes, at that moment all the waters stop flowing and become healing waters.
Wonder Where team would like to share one video of last year‘s celebration of Epiphany in Struga, Macedonia.