New Year’s Eve tradition in Albania

New Year’s Day in communism…

During the dictatorship regime, Christmas Day had no meaning since Enver Hoxha established an atheist state. According to the state archive, the last Christmas wish, dated back in 1966, is in a document that shows a telegram from the Head of the Orthodox Church of Albania wishing Christmas to the Head of Albanian Catholic Church. We didn’t celebrate any religious day for more than 40 years. The most festive day of the year was the 31st of December.  Parents would get some toys for their kids; the shops were full of foods we couldn’t find at other times 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 about how people progressed with cleaning, buying, and cooking. By cleaning and buying some small extras for the house, people wished and hoped that the New Year would make them happier and in better living conditions.

It was also related to another tradition: on the first day of January, Albanians visited each other’s houses, relatives, and neighbors to wish each other a Happy New Year.  In the morning, you would see your relative’s house; in the afternoon or the next day, they would visit you. It was a competitive feeling, wondering who would offer more sweets, drinks, dried and fresh fruits, and desserts.

This festive day has to do more with the Food. The food preparation started a week before the New Year with cooking the Bakllava (the traditional dessert for New Year).

We recall that atmosphere of preparing for the big night; everyone was running to shops to buy all the food they could, and every family aimed to have more meals than the previous year.  People invited each other to have more relatives around the table and to wait for the New Year. 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 being more prosperous.

Traditional food

Traditional food

The times have changed a lot, but the traditional food in most Albanian homes has remained the same. The main dish has always been the baked or roasted turkey. People served it differently, but the most favorable was with “Pershesh” (baked corn cake all mashed). Other areas in Gjirokaster prefer ‘meat pie,’ or different lakrors—the people living close to the sea or lake prefer fish or seafood. But most of them put different kinds of meat on the table, baked or cooked with plenty of side dishes. The table should have salads, desserts, drinks, and fruits, even in families with few members.

Traditional food

The times have changed a lot, but the traditional food in most Albanian homes has remained the same. The main dish has always been the baked or roasted turkey. People served it differently, but the most favorable was with “Pershesh” (baked corn cake all mashed). Other areas in Gjirokaster prefer ‘meat pie,’ or different lakrors—the people living close to the sea or lake prefer fish or seafood. But most of them put different kinds of meat on the table, baked or cooked with plenty of side dishes. The table should have salads, desserts, drinks, and fruits, even in families with few members.

People dine and watch the special TV programs with music and humor that were prepared nationally with actors from each city of Albania. The program lasts all the night.

What has changed the most is the way Albanians celebrate today.

Now, families are cooking enough for themselves, serving the dishes they like most, such as seafood, salads, cold dishes, or new recipes. Celebrating the New Year in different restaurants offering delicious menus is trendy. Also, many families choose to spend the Festive Season outside the country. Others are waiting for their relatives to come home from other countries.

After midnight, Albanians go out to see the fireworks display organized by all municipalities. In Tirana, there are also concerts in the Main Square. All the bars are open after midnight and have live music, so people go and drink with each other until the following day.

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