Yesterday was a big day in both the US and in Albania, and I thought it was funny that the names are Black Friday and White Night (which is also odd in its own regard, not to be confused at all with “white knights”). In fact there were two big celebrations here in Albania this past week that coincided with the American Thanksgiving holiday. On Thursday the country celebrated 101 years of independence and on Friday, it celebrated Liberation Day, also known as “White Night”. This holiday celebrates the day in which Albania was liberated from Nazi Germany during WWII in 1944, just before the start of Communist Rule. While the exact date is sometimes disputed, there are widespread celebrations each year to commemorate freedom and independence on both the 28th and 29th. One of the things I enjoyed most about the weekend’s celebrations was the nightlife, as it is customary for bars, clubs, museums, and restaurants to be open all night on White Night. Yesterday proved however, that I’m not a partier like I was in college and I like sleep a lot more now than I used to.
In addition to these celebrations, I have noticed more Christmas decorations than ever here in Tirana. A brand new Christmas tree and ornaments store just opened up near my apartment, complete with a large Santa Claus reindeer display on its roof. The market behind my house is also decked out for Christmas. This is a new and growing trend in Albania. Albania is a mostly Muslim country, but there large numbers of Orthodox and Catholic communities. Under communist rule, the Party attempted to rid the country of any holiday celebrations, especially those linked to Western Culture, and Christmas was among these. Instead, the leaders emphasized the importance of New Year’s Day, and people decorated for New Year’s. Even today this is the bigger holiday here and it’s the time of year when people have family & friends over, exchange gifts, eat lots of good food (like turkey), and of course there is the world’s biggest fireworks show in Tirana. After all, there aren’t any rules against them here. All this being said, there seems to be more and more people celebrating Christmas here, or at least adding Christmas decorations to their houses and stores.
One thing I have always liked about November 28 and 29 is being able to attend these celebrations with Albanian- Americans in Houston, TX. I have gone to two celebrations and have always been welcomed to enjoy the festivities and work on various projects related to my dissertation. One year I made a very short film about the Albanian-American community there and their various experiences from Albania and Kosova. I even got men to sing and play Albanian music on camera. While my filming and editing skills were not very good (and still aren’t), the group was wonderful and have always been helpful when it comes to my project. Believe it or not, I met a family there in 2010 and then ran into the father and his cousin here in Tirana just a couple of months ago. I had answered an ad about an apartment and they were landlords. Small world!
All in all, for everyone celebrating during this holiday season, Gëzuar Festat!