Feast of the Holy Forty Martyrs in Štip
Inscribed in 2013 (8.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
The Feast of the Holy Forty Martyrs takes place every year on 22 March, honouring the fourth-century martyrs of Sebaste and marking the first day of spring. Participants gather on the streets and in the squares of Štip, and then hike up the Isar hill, stopping en route at the church to pay tribute to the Holy Forty Martyrs. During the climb – according to tradition – the participants must greet forty acquaintances and gather forty pebbles as well as forty flowers or twigs from the almond trees that grow nearby. On reaching the top, the participants make wishes and throw thirty-nine pebbles into the Bregalnica River below. The remaining pebble is kept and placed under the pillow before going to sleep. Musical bands play on the hill throughout the day. The feast is transmitted through parents hiking with their children, or older relatives and friends handing down the tradition to the younger generation. This spring event requires the selfless cooperation of many people from all age groups, social classes and backgrounds, thus promoting and encouraging teamwork and solidarity. The feast is also a way of bringing together the different religious and ethnic groups that live in Štip, thus perpetuating a sense of belonging to the city and its traditions.