BELGRADE, Serbia

North Macedonia held its traditional Vevcani Carnival on Wednesday despite coronavirus measures. 

Every year, the village of Vevcani marks Orthodox St. Vasilij Day — the beginning of the old Julian calendar — with a 1,400-year-old carnival rooted in pre-Christian traditions.

Performers revel in the streets wearing masks that reflect pagan rituals, religious issues or political satires of current events.

This year’s carnival was canceled because of COVID-19 restrictions, according to the municipality.

Despite warnings by officials, hundreds gathered in the traditional location, Upper and Lower District, where masks of the carnival were displayed.

Police warned attendees to “disperse” but defiant revelers clashed with authorities.

Organizer Vasilicarsko Associati said earlier that the carnival would go on although it is currently forbidden to gather more than four people outdoors.

The Vevcani Carnival celebrates the arrival of the New Year according to the old calendar, a blend between the pagan and modern manner of celebration.

It is based on specific characteristics and separates itself from the rest of world carnivals because of its archaicity, tradition, secrecy and unique masks.

The carnival has become a major tourist attraction, in part because it merges old pagan rituals with Christian motifs.

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