Spring Day – Dita e Veres
Spring Day (we actually call it Summer Day) is celebrated every 14 March in Albania.
According to some sources, Dita e Verës derives from the Arbëreshë, an Albanian community that lives in Italy since the fifteenth century. On 14 March, the Arbëreshë of the Italian coast, collect a tuft of grass roots and soil, bringing it home to commemorate the anniversary of their emigration from Albania. In fact, some sources date back this celebration to the ancient Illyria. At that time, the feast was celebrated on 1 March, which according to the Julian calendar, corresponded to the first day of the year.
Pilgrimages were made to the highest peaks in the Albanian mountains to be as close as possible to the Sun God and pray for the goodness and prosperity of the new year. The great fire crossed by men and young people symbolized the end of winter. Instead, wreaths and garlands on the doors of the houses wished good luck. The purity of the celebration has weakened over the centuries but came to this day thanks to the tradition preserved in the city of Elbasan.
The ritual of the Dita e Verës begins on the previous day with the preparation of sweets: the revani and ballakume, the blended butter, sugar, corn flour and egg yolks cooked in a wood oven. During the evening ballakume, dried figs, walnuts, turkey legs, boiled eggs, simite (a typical sandwich of the city) are distributed to members of the family. The oldest woman of the house remains awake at night and goes from room to room to put down grass on the cushions of couples, young people and children, a ritual that symbolizes the regeneration and quickening.
On the morning of 14 March, the elderly leave the door open as a sign of generosity, a pitcher filled with fresh water and take home a clump of green grass. The youngest fertilizes the orange and olive trees, but the smaller ones are the first to make the “lucky” visits to neighbors and relatives who give them turkey legs, dried figs and nuts. Finally lunch on 14 March, should be eaten outdoors in the company of friends and relatives.
In absence of high mountains, people climb the pyramid, the ex-museum of our ex-dictator, Enver Hoxha.
Since 2004, it is a national holiday and is widely regarded as a pagan holy day. Sugar clouds are welcomed but as I previously copy+pasted from Wikipedia, ballakume is the must-eat sweet. And of course, its price that day is doubled. 😀 Although lots of young people travel to Elbasan to celebrate it, Tirana is the main destination. Streets are full and the local government organizes concerts with Djs or popular Albanian singers. Meat balls and beers are in abundance. I hope this catches on and people from all over the world come here and celebrate with us. 🙂