Albania prepares for Summer Day celebrations
TIRANA, March 13 – The Summer Day atmosphere is already present in Albania’s main cities, with celebrations having kicked off in Elbasan, central Albania, the traditional host of the country’s sole official holiday with pagan roots marking the end of winter, celebrated nationwide every March 14 since more than a decade now.
Streets have been decorated with flowers and the traditional Summer Day cookie, the ballokume, is present in every shop while sunny weather heralds a March 14 packed with events, especially in Elbasan and Tirana, the holiday’s two main hosts attracting dozens of thousands of visitors nationwide.
Celebrations in Elbasan are already underway with a local book fair and two handicrafts and trade fairs drawing visitors in one of the country’s eldest cities, only some 30 km off Tirana, linked through a new highway considerably cutting distance since 2013.
The Elbasan public also hosted Verdi’s La Traviata last Sunday with some of the best Opera House soloists performing at the local Skampa theatre, in a comeback after four decades to Elbasan. Local government officials in Elbasan described the opera as the culminating moment of the four-day celebrations that have kicked off since March 11.
Other painting, cycling, music, carnival and sports events are scheduled in Elbasan for Tuesday, March, 14, the culmination of celebrations.
A long-awaited local handicraft fair that has opened at the Elbasan ethnographic museum is also seen as an opportunity to preserve local tradition and promote new jobs.
“We had been striving to open this fair in Elbasan for a long time. Finally, we made it, identifying people who deal with handcrafts and artworks. This could also have an impact on employing people in the short-run,” Kreshnik Belegu, the director of the Ethnographic Museum is quoted as saying.
The atmosphere in Tirana is also vibrant with the main boulevard already decorated with big flowers and dozens of entertainment events scheduled to take place, including the inauguration of a new historic bazaar downtown the capital city.
“We are ready for Summer Day. We will start with the fantastic inauguration of the Pazari i Ri, games and entertainment at the boulevard, a trade fair and local DJs at the Mother Teresa square, the Lake Carnival, 400 foreign artists at the Pyramid building and a super street party at the Bllok. We will wait for you on March 14 from 9 a.m. until as long as you can!” says Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj.
The municipality says celebrations will kick off at 9 a.am. with the inauguration of the Pazari i Ri (New Bazaar) neighbourhood, which has been completely transformed into a multi-functional space that will serve not only as a market for Tirana citizens, but at the same time an attractive space to spend the afternoon. During Summer Day celebrations, this area will host the children’s painting corner, a concert by the Opera and Ballet Ensemble and live music in the afternoon.
The municipality says the newly reconstructed Pazari i Ri square will employ about 300 meat, fish and fruit traders in the morning hours and serve as a venue for citizens who want to spend the afternoon enjoying local food.
The Pazari i Ri and the Avni Rustemi square, a joint $3 million investment by the Albanian government and Albanian-American Development Foundation, will serve Tirana as a new commercial but also tourist and entertainment center. A symbol of Tirana’s traditional urban life and a destination of commercial value housing more than 15 sites of cultural heritage protected by law, the new bazaar is a described as “perfect candidate for a natural pedestrian mall and tourism destination.”
Visitors to Tirana can also watch some 400 international artists attending Tirana’s second watercolor biennale making live demonstrations at the Pyramid building and attend a noon concert with Albanian singers Alban Skënderaj, Marsela Çibukaj, Klajdi Haruni & Bruno at the Rinia park next to the central boulevard.
The southern Albanian town of Permet, nicknamed as the city of flowers and known for its thermal springs and famous canyons, has also announced some events focused on local food and music. The local iso-polyphony tunes masterfully performed by late Permet clarinetist Laver Bariu have been placed under UNESCO protection as “a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity.”
Until a decade ago, summer’s Day was mostly celebrated in Elbasan.
Approved by the Albanian Parliament in 2004 as an official and national holiday, this day of pagan celebration symbolizes the rebirth of nature, the awakening from a long dark winter and a general rejuvenation of one’s spirit.
The celebration of Summer Day dates back to ancient times in the city of Elbasan, which due in part to its location in the geographic center of the country, was considered the umbilical city for all of Albania.
According to an Albanian legend, the Mountain Muse, who was the goddess of hunting, forests, and all things related to nature, would usher in summer by coming out of her temple on the 14th of March.
While thousands of people still rush to Elbasan, where the holiday originates, celebrations in Tirana are becoming even bigger ever since Summer Day was announced a national holiday.