Shkodra is a very special place to be during the holiday season. Not only because of my family and its location, at the foothills of the Albanian Alps, but because, in my opinion, you won’t find kinder, friendlier or more helpful people anywhere in the world. Albanians have lived through an imaginable 50 years in the 20th century, yet they are, for the most part, extremely affable, social, gregarious and kind. After all they went through I am amazed every day at their dispositions, vitality and willingness to help. Perhaps it is because of all they suffered that makes them so sensitive to others’ needs and so willing to help anytime, anywhere.
During the holiday season I walked the streets of Shkodra and immersed myself in their lives. I went to the bazaar where you can find everything under the sun, from live chickens to all kinds of meat and fish; vegetables; clothes; housewares, you name it. Every day the markets are flooded with people buying their goods, but even more so during Christmas and New Year’s. Stores around the city are filled with fireworks for sale. A big tradition on New Year’s Eve is for everyone to fire up and the city literally lights up with beautiful fireworks. They are also filled with artificial Christmas trees and lights for sale. One thing that stood out for me was the non-commercialism of the holiday, this was a welcome change from the over-commercialism we see in the USA and other parts of Europe. It was a stark contrast. Where we, again, in my opinion, give way too many gifts, here the children may get one gift, and not an extravagant one at that, maybe a new scarf or hat and the adults don’t have exchanges. I had to refrain myself from buying too much since I was still in that mindset and it was a little bit hard not to spend any money, but I managed. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were spent with family and we all had a great time together along with great food!
Which brings me to New Year 2013!
This video was taken from the top floor of my family’s home in Shkoder on New Year’s Eve. The city was lit on fire by fireworks, which started about 10:00 pm and didn’t stop until well after 1:00 am. It was a spectacular show. We were so engrossed in it that we almost missed midnight! Luckily we made it downstairs just in time to pop the cork on the champagne bottle. New Year’s Day was spent with family once more, and once more a lot of good food (I am definitely starting my New Year’s resolution tonight). Happy New Year everyone! Gezuar Vitin e Ri!!!