My Saint George in Prizren
My memories from “Saint George,” or “Karabash” as it is called in Prizren, are somewhat hazy. That’s because the last time I really enjoyed the chaos of this day was a long time ago, maybe 21 years ago. At that time, the preparations for it started days in advance. The celebrations passed through the street where I grew up –– Boris Kidrić Street at the time, then renamed Ismet Jashari Kumanova Street –– and then usually was spread across the whole area surrounding the Shadërvan fountain in the center of town.
People with something to sell, from all across Kosovo, usually came a few days before the holiday to mark with stones or spray paint the place where they would place their market stall. Mainly, they sold toys and cookies prepared especially for this day. Kebabs, burgers and other types of meat were always present too.
In essence, Saint George’s Day is a celebration of the arrival of spring and good weather. In Prizren it is called Karabash because of the place where the day was marked until a few years ago, at the old Ottoman cemetery where the tomb of Karabash Baba is located. It is the grave of an Ottoman warrior. These cemeteries were closed for the feast after the arrival of Turkish KFOR troops and the Turkish diplomatic presence.
Now, anyone who wants to visit the tomb of Karabash Baba can do so, but will not find toys or street vendors.
One of the main reasons so many youth showed up to celebrate the day was to discover their “fate” or the love of their life. Maybe this was because the many games that were there were the most practical way to create a relationship, which could possibly end in marriage.
The feast was celebrated this year after two years of banning such gatherings due to Covid-19. Unlike the years when my neighborhood friends and I spent all our savings playing many of the games on this day, Karabash this year was smaller. But the people, although fewer in number, seemed to show a great desire to preserve Karabash in Prizren.
This article has been produced with the financial support of the “Balkan Trust for Democracy,” a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Balkan Trust for Democracy, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, or its partners.
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