Kolo – Balkan Equivalent of the Chicken Dance

Hello again. I’ve been slacking with the blog lately but you sure know how to light a fire under me to get me going again. Yes, I read all your emails and messages and I appreciate every single one.

It’s Saturday, so let’s do something fun. Close your eyes . (Ok, open them again, but you get the point.) Pretend you’re at a wedding. Envision the beautiful couple, plates of food, sweaty children who’ve already stained their best clothes playing on the grass and binging at the dessert table, young people ripping it up on the dance floor, multitudes of grandparents quietly watching all the action from the perimeter. (If this was Canada, you’d also be listening to the Chicken Dance in your head.) Think of the quiet ceremonial cake cutting, the pictures, and the curious variety of lonely family and friends at the reject table. (Read: table in the furthest reach of the wedding but still considered part of it.)

If you’ve come this far, you are NOT at a Serbian wedding.

EVERYONE needs to go to a Serbian wedding at some point. Seriously, just crash one. They’ll probably invite you in anyway, and make you drink copious amounts of Rakija (fruit brandy) and dance the kolo all night. 3 weeks ago, we went to our first Serbian wedding in a town called Knjazevac (Kin-ya-je-vats). The bride, of course, was beautiful and possibly one of the sweetest women on the planet. The ceremony itself was very short, maybe 15 minutes or so, and then all of the guests cued up to get their pictures taken with the bride and groom, after which we all hustled inside for the first dance, back outside for the bouquet toss, and back inside for what was to be 12 hours of continuous food, drink, and kolo.

The food…massive, tasty, and endless. The drinks…well, I think I have found a supplier. (Sounds like a drug deal, doesn’t it?) I usually like a glass, at most two glasses of wine. More than that and I get the nasty wine feel.  The week prior, Chris, the awesome husband he is, visited a winery for the groom’s bachelor party where he bought me 2 dozen bottles of wine. Yes. 24 bottles. No. I did not drink them in one night. Yes, we like to entertain. Anyway, this wine is the cleanest wine I have ever drank and I’ve found it’s the only wine I’ve had that hasn’t given me the ugly wine hangover. So, at the wedding, 2 bottles of wine were placed in front of me and I drank a bottle and a half and still felt incredible. I am admitting this because the next day, I woke early and was able to bike with Chris and the girls to the next town with total ease. The wine might have even made me quicker, more powerful. Kind of like what spinach does for Popeye. Anyone who comes to my house will get some because, contrary to what you may think by now, I do not drink it every day.

Back to the wedding. Rakija, the fruit brandy (usually plum), poured as freely as water and helped to amp up the crowd as they danced the kolo for hours and hours. Kolo is a dance that has quite simple footsteps and can vary from town to town. One of the main ones we did went …shuffle right-right-right, tap left, tap right, shuffle-right-right-right, all while holding hands in a conga-like procession. Doing this dance now, sober, in my living room, I’m not sure I have it right, which would explain why I stepped on more than a few toes.  Young and old danced the kolo all night, with the old people literally owning the dance floor for the majority of the time. It’s also important to note that the leader of the conga/kolo line is responsible for swinging a white napkin or handkerchief in the air as he/she dances.

And the cake. THE CAKE! Midway through the evening, torches of fire were lit and the music thrummed and people started chanting and cheering. Something major was happening. For 15 minutes fires were burning and people were vibrating around some important center. I expected a galaxial orb or religious shrine to erupt. I squeezed my way through the crowd of people and saw the mystical being: the cake. The cake wasn’t being cut, nor were the couple taking those staged photos in front of it. People were celebrating the cake like fans at a rock concert. It was fascinating!

We’re on our way to an Israeli harvest celebration so I will leave you with best wishes for an amazing weekend. Cheers!

Wedding Pic - Good

Author: S.L.Luck

Writer of fiction, non-fiction, and stories in between.

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