Amid these trying times, being a part of a like-minded community is a good strategy to keep your sanity. Recently, we’ve been yearning for a sense of peace that only comes from surrounding ourselves with those who share similar beliefs. A feeling that is akin to the satisfaction of a puzzle piece sliding effortlessly into its spot—like a reassuring “Yes, this belongs here.”
Our personal story with the Macedonian Orthodox Church of Sv. Kiril i Metodij is quite fascinating. Initially residing together in Willowbrook, we unexpectedly traveled to Macedonia first, only to later realize that our hometown hosts the first Macedonian church in the Chicagoland area.
Chicagoland’s Macedonian Hub
Despite being one of the smaller cultural groups in the Chicagoland area, the Macedonian community is supportive and tight-knit. Serving as a heritage hub, the Sv. Kiril i Metodij Church is the central gathering place for holidays and Divine Liturgy. Those who come to town for celebrations and special events may choose to stay close to the church at the Hampton Inn Burr Ridge or even enjoy traditional Macedonian food in the nearby suburbs.
🏙️ Chicago First-Timers: Must-Do List!
As an additional point, should you have friends or family visiting Chicago for the first time, here are some enjoyable activities worth considering.
- 🚢 Chicago Architecture River Cruise: cruise down the Chicago spotting the city’s iconic buildings, guided insights, and skyline views. Easily cover major landmarks along the river, including the Willis Tower, Old Post Office, and Wrigley Building. Live commentary enhances the experience.
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- 🎫 Chicago CityPASS: a bundled admission ticket providing 50% off discounted access to five top attractions, such as Shedd Aquarium and Skydeck Chicago. It offers a convenient and cost-effective way to explore the city’s iconic sites.
Many may ask why the connection with this church, considering we are neither Macedonian nor Orthodox. The answer is that I’ve always felt closest to God in Macedonia. In this country, symbols of our faith are everywhere! Cities, villages, churches, shrines, and even mountaintops—are all adorned with reminders of God’s love for us.
Personally, the sense of closeness to God appears to diminish in the United States. However, for some reason, that feeling is rekindled when we visit the Sv. Kiril i Metodij Macedonian Orthodox Church. Additionally, as a testament to our connection with the church, it’s the only house of worship where we can knowingly greet the priest by name.
Sv. Kiril i Metodij Special Events
In the past, we attended Christmas Eve liturgy and on occasion stopped in the church for some quiet reflection. We were even invited to be part of Father Toni’s blessings at the grand opening party of Babba Grill, a traditional Macedonian restaurant in nearby Darien.
However, the church organizes several special events that we would love to attend. If an event interests you, feel free to stop by. Macedonians are the most welcoming, friendly, and generous people you’ll ever have the opportunity to meet. It’s a great way to meet some wholesome people and make new friends.
If you’ve never experienced an Orthodox Epiphany celebration, consider adding it to your bucket list. First, there is the Divine Service in the church with the blessing of the cross. Afterward, brave souls endure the frigid, sanctified waters in an attempt to be the first person to find the blessed tossed cross. This is an exciting and moving spectacle hosted in January by the Sv. Kiril i Metodij Macedonian Orthodox Church.
The church even organizes a child-friendly version of the Catching of the Cross for families. Afterward, in true Macedonian fashion, everyone gathers together to enjoy a hearty lunch with traditional food. If you’re lucky there will also be yummy pastrmalija. It’s a great way to teach and offer exposure to the Holy celebration.
In Macedonian tradition, Kolede is celebrated the day before Christmas Eve. The evening is marked with singing, gathering around a large fire, drinking brandy, eating, and Holy Liturgy. Celebrations are held in the Sv. Kiril i Metodij churchyard.
People are also invited to bring along their holy and sacred relics that need respectful disposal. These would include religious items like blessed candles, religious texts, and other sacramental objects.
Being a part of Kolede is something we hope to enjoy one day. Gathering around a community fire, oftentimes in the snow, drinking rakija, and celebrating Orthodox Christmas sounds like a fun and magical evening.
If warm weather gatherings are more your style, then Ilinden—considered the great Macedonian and Orthodox holiday—may interest you. Ilinden, or St. Elijah’s Day, commemorates the 1903 Ilinden Uprising in Macedonia against Ottoman rule. Occurring on August 2nd, the revolt symbolized the Macedonian people’s pursuit of independence and self-determination.
Ilinden remains a cornerstone of Macedonian identity, celebrated annually with cultural and patriotic activities. At Sv. Kiril i Metodij Church, an outdoor picnic is organized with activities for the children, music, dancing, and lots of food and drinks.
During our tour of Macedonia, we explored the Freedom Monument in Kochani. One of the historical events incorporated into the monument is the 1903 Ilinden Uprising.
Plan Your Visit
If any of these gatherings interest you, feel free to stop by and attend. Additionally, times, dates, and weekly events are posted on the Sv. Kiril i Metodij Macedonian Orthodox Church’s social media page. Hope to see you there soon.
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