Society

Culture and Traditions of Albania

Albanians are separated into two main groups based on their culture.

Albania is a country found in South-Eastern part of Europe and covers an area of approximately 11,100 square miles. According to the 2016 census the country had about 3 million inhabitants. It has its capital in Tirana which serves as the center for economic and commercial activities. The Albanian culture is a combination of the culinary, literary, political, musical, and artistic aspects of people of Albania, elements that have been nurtured over time and passed down from generation to generation.

Brief History

A considerable part of Albanian culture borrows heavily from the ancient Illyrian tribe that lived in present-day Albanian region many centuries ago, the name Albania was derived from the name Albanoi which was a tribe that was part of the broader Illyrian community. Albanians use the golden eagle as the national symbol, this symbol dates way back to the 10th century, and it represents courage, heroism, bravery, and freedom.

Lifestyle Customs

Albanians follow customs called The Kanun, and these are sets of traditional and cultural practices that have their origins in the laws of the Illyrian tribe that has been passed down orally from one generation to another. The Kanun has four pillars that guide the people in life, and they are Honor, Hospitality, Right Conduct and Kin Loyalty. The Kanun also has an honor code called Besa which compels any Albanian to have the ability to keep their promises and see to their obligations in life, and it is the code of conduct that ensures that an agreement between two honorable members is seen to completion. The Kanun calls upon people to take care and comfort those who are in need regardless of their religious or racial affiliations, and this was the reason the Albanians offered refuge to the Jewish people in 1940s during the Holocaust.

Holidays

The people of Albania have a host of holidays that commemorate different events and notable individuals, and these holidays are spread throughout the year. On November 28th of every year Albanians across southeast Europe celebrate their flag and Independence Day in remembrance of the liberty they attained in 1912 from the Ottoman Empire. The event is usually marked with military parades in all the major cities. There is also Bajram which is a Muslim holiday that is observed as a day for forgiveness, peace and moral victory, unity, and fellowship. The holiday is characterized by the slaughtering of a sheep and sharing the meat with friends, family, and the less fortunate in society. The date for observing Bajram varies from year to year as it depends on the appearance of the crescent moon. Dita e Veres is another holiday observed in Albania, and it is a pagan festival celebrated every 14th of March to commemorate the end of the winter season, the rejuvenation of the spirit and the re-birth of nature. The primary activity of the festival is the cooking of sweets and eating of dishes that comprises of turkey legs, dried figs, boiled eggs, walnuts, and simite.

Cuisine

Food plays a vital role in the Albanian culture, and is integral to the hosting of guests in any home. It is common practice for Albanians to invite each other over for a meal once in a while for bonding. Albanian food has much of Mediterranean influence, and the one that stand out as an aspect of Albanian food is the heavy use of olive oil in almost all of their dishes. When it comes to vegetables, the cuisine incorporates varieties that range from peppers, cabbages, zucchini, cucumbers, spinach, potatoes, and eggplants. Common Albanian spices and herbs include garlic, onion, basil, mint, and oregano. Their meat dishes vary from chicken, veal, lamb, goat, and beef. Being near the sea means that fish plays a significant role in the national cuisine from time to time.

Religion

The people of Albania practice a diverse number of religions. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all co-exist peacefully. The constitution of the country allows for the freedom of worship without any constraint that can impede the practice of any religion. The country promotes religious tolerance. Of the three religions, Judaism is the oldest, having been introduced to Albanians in 1 BC. Christianity follows a close second with records dating back to the era of the Apostles. It is believed that apostle Paul was the founder of the Durres Archbishopric while spreading the gospel in Illyria. Islam arrived in Albania in the 9th Century when Arabs raided the land from the Adriatic Sea. When the Ottoman Empire took over, Islam became the main religion of Albania and still has the majority of followers up to this day.

Language

Albanian is the dominant language spoken in Albania. It has two dialects, the Tosk and the Gheg. The Tosk is spoken in the southern regions while the Gheg is widely used in the northern areas. The Albanian language as a whole has its origin in the ancient Illyrian language which was used in the Balkan region by the Illyrian tribes. In today’s world, due to the scattering of the Albanian people across the globe, the language has established itself in Greece, Italy, Serbia, and Croatia, each with its unique dialect. The areas where the original Albanian language is primarily used include Montenegro, Macedonia, and Kosovo.

Literature And Art

Literature took its roots in the Albanian culture through religion when the Catholic Church developed bible manuscripts written in the Albanian language, and this opened up the door for further development of the written form of the Albanian language. The Meshari by Gjon Buzuku became the first literary work written in Albanian. Albania has gone on and produced great literary minds like Francesco Santori, a novelist and playwright, Zef Skiroi, a folklorist, Dhimiter Kamarda, a philologist among many others. Albanian art comes in various forms, ranging from architecture to painting to sculpture to mosaic designs. Albanian art also dates back to the Illyrian era and over time has been influenced by the various external forces that sought to conquer the region. During the Ottoman rule, most of the Albanian art reflected Muslim themes from music to architecture, after independence there was a burst of varied forms of art that were introduced by those that returned to Albania from exile.

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