09 Feb Albania Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve Observed in The Country of Albania
Though Christmas is an annual holiday celebrated by millions upon millions of Christians around the world each year (marking the birth of Christ), it is celebrated very differently in Albania. This has more to do with recent history than ancient history.
During years of communist rule, Albanians were under threat of arrest and imprisonment if they celebrated religious holidays, including Christmas and Easter. Because of that, Christmas in Albania became a very low-key or even non-existent holiday. Instead, it was replaced by the secular New Year’s celebrations. Even today, the exchanging of gifts occurs on New Year’s rather than Christmas.
Today, Christmas Eve is a public holiday and many Albanians head to Christian churches to celebrate midnight mass. At their conclusion, churchgoers greet one another with a cheerful Gézuar Krishlindjet! (Merry Christmas!)
Widespread Christmas traditions still hold strong in Albania, including the idea of a Santa Claus. Known as Babagjyshi I Krishtlindjeve, he is seen as an actual person who served as the Bishop of Myra in 317 and who was sainted after his death in 345. He is the one who brings many gifts and treats and who has a sleigh and reindeer, but his gift giving does not always occur on Christmas Eve or even Christmas, but instead around New Year’s.
Albanians do celebrate Christmas more joyfully in the current era and think of Christmas Eve as an ideal time for a large, meatless family meal before a church service. They will consume traditional dishes, and most find it important that their best linens are used. The centerpiece of the table is usually edible and will feature pies and treats made with ingredients such as nuts and honey as well as other seasonal delights.
Also, because Albania is a Muslim majority country, Christmas does not play as enormous a role as it does in other European countries. Yet many non-Christian Albanians join in on the celebrations on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.