On Sunday morning, hours before the conclusion of the annual wedding festival in the village of Galičnik, Macedonia, the bridegroom and his groomsmen head into the forest to deliver the ceremony’s final invitations. It’s mid-July and the group is dressed in heavy tunics and white wool trousers, and accompanied by musicians blowing wooden horns and beating drums. They walk single file along a narrow trail to the graveyard with a bottle of rakija, the local grappa, and a tray of shot glasses. Surrounding a headstone set in a clearing among the trees, the wedding party—already two long, hot nights into the festivities—drink the liqueur, pour some atop the grave, light religious candles, and cajole their deceased relatives to attend the celebration’s consummation.
Like nearly every ritual and custom on display during the two-and-a-half-day gathering—held this year on July 14 and 15—summoning spirits from the past defies most metrics of modern logic. But for countrymen, thousands in the diaspora, and travelers who will make the pilgrimage to this quiet community tucked into the mountains on Macedonia’s western edge, the yearly reacquaintance with a decidedly antiquated heritage makes the celebration special.