09 Feb Albania Christmas Day
Christmas Day Observed in The Country of Albania
Those familiar with Albania may agree with one expert who said that “Albanians abroad may have a difficult time getting used to celebrating Christmas the way people in the West are used to celebrating it.” This is because the political history of Albania has made the holiday very unique.
For many decades Ottoman and communist rule made most Christian or religious holidays a crime. Though Christians in Albania had been celebrating the holiday for centuries, recognizing it as the day that Christ was born and marking it with church services, gift giving and family events, that all had to end with political change.
Instead, many of the traditional Christmas activities (mostly those of a secular nature) were moved to New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Gift giving, visits from a Santa Claus like figure (known as Babagjyshi i Krishtlindjeve), family meals with the best dishes and linens presented and other celebrations all became part of the ways Albanians celebrated the turn of the year.
Today, Albanians may have trees up and illuminated to celebrate the Christmas holiday, but it is usually a New Year’s tree, instead. The Old Man of the New Year, Babagjyshi i Vitit te Ri might pay a visit that day and leave behind gifts.
Today, December 25 is recognized as a public holiday and businesses and government offices are closed. Though most of the country is Muslim, Christmas is a day of many gatherings. Some Christians attend midnight masses or Christmas day services, and then host an array of friends, family, and neighbors of all backgrounds for large meals and lots of activities.
Albanians greet one another on Christmas day with a Gëzuar Krishtlindjet or Merry Christmas, and many people visit the capital city’s main square to see the amazing Christmas tree and lights on display. However, the big fireworks display occurs on New Year’s Eve each year.