The festivities sparked outrage in Greece after some revelers of the parade staged a mock funeral for Greece, with participants carrying a coffin representing the nation’s crippled economy. Macedonia has been at odds with Greece for two decades over the former Yugoslav state’s name, with Athens contending that the name implies territorial intentions against its own northern province of Macedonia.
Greece was the butt of jokes again this year: A group of carnival revelers commemorated ‘‘one year of death’’ for its southern neighbor due to its financial woes. Dressed in a costume made up of the blue-and-white stripes of Greece’s national flag, Gojko Luoski begged for money while carrying a cradle and baby.
‘‘I am not making fun of Greece,’’ he insisted as he marched down the street in the parade. ‘‘Greece is in debt so I'm begging for whatever you have ... however many billions you have so it can pay its debts.’’
The masks are a tightly kept secret until the day when hundreds of villagers parade on the streets of the hamlet. The day after the festival, all masks are taken to the village square and burned—a symbolic act of purification to chase out the evil spirits.
Magdalena Marevska, who is from the northern town of Kumanovo and was visiting the village for the carnival, said the annual mockery was also a way of airing some uncomfortable truths.
‘‘It’s not about our neighboring countries, it’s about the tradition that the carnival has on its own,’’ she said. ‘‘They are showing how the society actually looks like during the year,’’ she said.
‘‘After all, this is only a carnival. This is make-believe,’’ said Ilieski, the mayor, underlining that there was no need for anyone to be insulted by the costumes. ‘‘It is something that is not real. It’s a mask. Anyone who has any common sense understands that it is a mask. You take it off and burn it.’’