The dinner for New Year’s Eve is really a long tradition for Albanians. Differently from other European countries who celebrate Christmas in family, for Albanians the New Year's Eve dinner is the most important one.
New Year day in communism...
During the dictatorship regime, the Christmas Day, has no meaning, since Enver Hoxha established an atheist state. According to state archive the last Christmas wish, dated back in 1966, in a document which shows a telegram from the Head of Orthodox Church of Albania wishing Christmas to the Head of Albanian Catholic Church. We didn’t celebrate any religion day for more than 40 years. The most festive day of the year was the 31 st of December. The parents would gets some toys for their kids, the shops were full with different foods we couldn’t find other time of the year.
The housewives took one day off to clean the house washing everything from curtains, blankets and carpets. The conversations in those days were all about how people progressed with cleaning buying and cooking. By cleaning and buying some small extras for the house, people were wishing and hoping that the New Year would find them happier and in better living conditions.
It was related also to another tradition on the first days of January, Albanians visited the houses of each other, relatives and neighbors, to wish Happy New Year. In the morning you would visit your relative’s house, in the afternoon or the next day they would come and visit you. It was a competition feeling, who would offer more sweets, drinks, dried and fresh fruits and deserts.
This festive day has to do with more with Food. The food preparation started a week before the New Year with cooking the Bakllava (the traditional desert for New Year).
We recall that atmosphere of preparing for the big night, everyone was running to shops, to buy all food they could, and every family aimed at having a richer meal than previous year. People invited each other, to have more relatives around the table, and to wait the New Year altogether. Albanians have been poor but with a big heart, so no one was alone that day. People were also optimistic and always liked to project the coming year as more prosperous one.
The traditional dish has always been the baked or roasted turkey. People served it in different ways but the most favorable is with “Pershesh” (baked corn cake all mashed). But other areas for example in Gjirokaster prefer ‘meat pie ’, or different lakrors. The people living close to sea or lake, prefered the fish or seafood. But most of them put in the table different kinds of meat, baked or cooked with plenty of side dishes. The table should be full with salads, desserts, drinks, and fruits, even in the families with few members.
People would dine and watch the special TV programs with music and humor that were prepared nationally with actors from each city of Albania. The program lasted after midnight and then the public TV would show an exclusive movie until 2-3 in the morning. There was only one Public TV Channel.
But this tradition is changing. Now families are cooking enough for themselves, serving the dishes they like most, for example sea foods, salads, or cold dishes or new recipes. There are still many families preserving the tradition, which we really like. Nowadays it is trendy to celebrate the New Year in different restaurants, who are offering delicious menus.