This article originally appeared on VICE Serbia
For hundreds of years, Vevčani, a Macedonian village on the border with Albania, has hosted forest gods, fascists, goblins, wedding guests, primitive tribes, monsters and presidents. Together, they march down the village streets one day a year, while drinking an astonishing amount of booze.
The ghouls aren't actually real, though. This is all for Vevčani's annual carnival. Organisers claim the event has taken place here on Orthodox New Year (the 14th of January) for the past 800 years, and was created to represent "the overthrow of evil forces" and to celebrate the Epiphany – the holiday marking the Three Wise Men visiting baby Jesus.
Central to the event is a symbolic wedding. According to Tone and Fone, whose official job is to walk ahead of the couple and herald their arrival, the wedding symbolises the victory of good over dark forces. "Vevčani has two mahalas [neighbourhoods]," Tone tells me. "The bride and groom descend down from the upper mahala, and the forces of darkness and evil ascend from the lower."
The carnival isn't just restricted to the village and its 2,000 inhabitants. Anyone is welcome to take part in the procession, or just dance around, costumed or not. Participants are also encouraged to make political statements through their outfits. For example, some of this year's visitors reenacted the live trial of the former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who fled to Hungary last year after being convicted of corruption. The carnival blends tradition with modern culture, and everyone joining is free to do whatever they want.
Scroll down to see more photos from the 2019 Vevčani carnival.