I think we all agree on the fact that December goes by so fast and suddenly we find ourselves preparing for Christmas and New Year. I have a love-hate relationship with December, to be honest. I love it because it seems that is a time that brings people together and suddenly everyone is reflecting on the year that they are about to leave behind. On the other hand, this month is associated with a lot of expenses mainly for gifts about the loved ones and because Albanian mothers have this terrible urge of transforming the house into a supermarket, where you can find all kinds of groceries, drinks, desserts etc. Most probably, you wont even eat half of it, but it doesn’t mind…That’s how Albanians celebrate!
As we all know, during the communist regime, Enver Hoxha banned the freedom of religion and Albania became the first atheist country of the world. What a great start, right?
However, after the fall of communism, Albanians got to experience too the joy of celebrating and practicing their own religion. The majority of people in Albania are Muslims but you must’ve heard that here that it doesn’t matter because we all respect each other’s religion and we celebrate Eid in the same way we celebrate Christmas, all together.
In most Albanian families, there is a specific time to do the Christmas tree and that is on December 5th but those who feel in themselves the Christmas Spirit more than others usually do it on December 1st. And all suddenly, everyone is asking you “ What are you buying me for Christmas/New Year?”. That is a question I am trying to avoid this year.
The holidays energy and spirit is being felt everywhere, especially in Tirane since is the capital of Albania. Skanderbeg square doesn’t look that empty anymore; every year the square serves as a Christmas market, where small wooden houses offer a cozy place to stay, relax and drink hot wine or beer with your friends or family. You can spot all around the little children who seem to enjoy these days more than everyone and you can see them laughing out loud, begging their mothers and fathers for money to take a ride in the playground. Everything is shining and it feels good.
On Christmas Day, every family makes sure that the table is full because a lot of people will be coming, even the people that my mother says will show up but never do, so there’s extra for anyone who wants to join.
Turkey and delicious desserts are the main dishes on Christmas day and on New Year’s Eve. A specialty of the Albanian Christmas/New Year’s dinner is "Bakllava", the famous dessert originally from Turkey.
And without even noticing, Christmas is over and then there comes the New Year. And if Christmas is all about family, New Year on the other hand is for family until 12: 00 PM, and then is for friends and partying until morning. If you are fortunate enough, you will have two days off to rest and come back to the “normal state of being”, if not straight to work. Fair enough!
©Elda Ndoja, Ecotour Albania