Albania Customs, Traditions, Languages, History, Religious Beliefs


Neighbor of Greece , awaits many secrets, along with the rest of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula. Here, the customs and traditions of Albania.


After half a century of Stalinist dictatorship, food culture is practically non-existent. For decades, there was little on the market beyond staples, and today extreme poverty has left most Albanians with little more to eat than bread, rice, yogurt, and beans.

To the extent that it has survived, Albanian cuisine is meat oriented. Among Albanians living abroad, it is easier to find traditional dishes, which are usually reserved for guests and for special occasions such as weddings.


Despite their poverty, Albanians are exceptionally generous and hospitable. A person invited to dinner will be given enough to “feed an army”, even if the host may go hungry the next day. It is not uncommon for an Albanian family to spend a month of their salary to feed a visitor.

Meals for guests or for ceremonial occasions such as weddings often include copious amounts of meat, washed with Albanian raki, an alcoholic beverage.

In the past, animals were slaughtered and roasted on a spit on religious festivals such as the Muslim celebration of Great Bayram and the Christian festivals of Saint Basil on January 1, Saint Athanasius on January 18, Saint George on April 23 and April 6. May, San Miguel on September 29, San Nicolás on December 6 and Christmas on December 25. These customs have largely disappeared, although some regional dishes have survived.

The Orthodox of southeastern Albania still eat qumështor, a custard dish made from flour, eggs and milk, before the beginning of Lent. During the annual spring festival (“Dita e Verës”), which is celebrated in central Albania on March 14, women from Elbasan and the surrounding regions bake a sweet cake known as “ballakum Elbasani”.

Members of the Islamic Bektashi sect mark the end of the ten-day mathematics fasting period with a special ashura (pudding) made from cracked wheat, sugar, dried fruit, crushed walnuts, and cinnamon.


Albanians follow the customs called El Kanun, and these are sets of traditional and cultural practices that have their origin in the laws of the Illyrian tribe that have been transmitted orally from one generation to another. The Kanun has four pillars that guide people in life, and they are Honor, Hospitality, Right Conduct and Family Loyalty.

In addition, El Kanun has a code of honor called Besa that obliges any Albanian to have the ability to fulfill their promises and watch over their obligations in life, and it is the code of conduct that guarantees that an agreement between two honorable members is seen compliment.

The Kanun calls on people to care for and comfort those in need, regardless of their religious or racial affiliations, and this was the reason why Albanians offered refuge to the Jewish people in the 1940s during the Holocaust.


The people of Albania have a large number of holidays that commemorate different events and notable individuals, and these holidays are spread throughout the entire year. On November 28 of each year, the Albanians of Southeastern Europe celebrate their flag and Independence Day in remembrance of the freedom they achieved in 1912 from the Ottoman Empire .

The event is usually marked with military parades in 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 companionship. The festival is characterized by the sacrifice of a sheep and the sharing of the meat with friends, family and the less fortunate in society.

The Bajram observation date 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 that is celebrated every March 14 to commemorate the end of the winter season, the rejuvenation of the spirit and the rebirth of nature.

The main activity of the festival is the baking of sweets and the consumption of dishes that include turkey legs, dried figs, boiled eggs, and walnuts.

What Are the Religious Beliefs in Albania

Albania is on the border, dividing three religions: Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, and Islam. According to the latest reliable statistics on religion (1942), among a population of 1,128,143, there were 779,417 (69%) Muslims, including the Bektashi; 232,320 (21%) Orthodox; and 116,259 (10%) Catholics.

It can be estimated today that approximately 70 percent of Albanians in the republic are of Muslim origin, including Bektashi; about 20 percent, the majority in the south, are Orthodox; and about 10 percent, the majority in the north, are Catholic.

In 1967, all religious communities were dissolved when a communist government edict prohibited the public practice of religion. The law was not repealed until December 1990, during the collapse of the regime.

Despite the return of religious freedom, there seems to be more interest in the revival of Christianity and Islam among missionaries and foreign groups than among Albanians.

Albanians have never had a national religion to identify with as a people. For the last century and a half, national (ethnic) identity has predominated over religious identity, and this is unlikely to change in the coming years in a small and struggling nation surrounded by hostile neighbors.

Organized religion continues to play a marginal role in public life. Religious fervor is extremely rare, and religious extremism is virtually unknown.


In the second half of the 19th century, the foundations of a national literature were laid with the emergence of a nationalist movement that fought for the independence of Albania from a decaying Ottoman Empire . The literature of this so-called Rilindja period of national awakening was characterized by romantic nationalism and provides a key to understanding the current Albanian mindset.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the centers of Catholic education created by the Franciscans and Jesuits in Shkodra under the auspices of the Austro-Hungarian Kultusprotektorat paved the way for the creation of an intellectual elite that produced the rudiments of a more sophisticated literature that expressed itself mainly in poetry. .

The culmination of Albanian literature before World War II appears in the works of the Franciscan priest Gjergj Fishta (1871-1940), once lauded as the national poet. From 1945 to 1990, for mainly political reasons, Fishta was excluded from the Albanian literary world and the mention of his name was prohibited.

Virtually all prewar Albanian literature was swept away by the political revolution that took place during and after World War II. Most of the prewar writers and intellectuals who had not left the country in 1944 regretted their decision to stay.

The persecution of intellectuals and the break with practically all cultural traditions created a literary and cultural vacuum that lasted until the 1960s and the results of which can still be felt.

With the integration of Albania into the Soviet bloc during the 1950s, Soviet literary models were slavishly introduced and imitated . The writers were encouraged to focus their creative energies on specific themes, such as the partisan struggle of the “war of national liberation” and the construction of socialism.

Despite the limitations of socialist realism and the Stalinist dictatorship, Albanian literature made great progress in the 1970s and 1980s.

One of the best examples of creativity and originality in Albanian letters then and now is Ismail Kadare (born 1936), the only Albanian writer with a broad international reputation.

Kadare’s talents as a poet and as a prose writer have lost none of their innovative strength in the last three decades. His influence is still felt among the young post-communist writers of the 1990s, the first generation to be able to express themselves freely.

The Republic of Albania is a country belonging to the Balkans, in Europe, whose capital is Tirana . It has a population of 3 million inhabitants (126º) and an area of ​​28,748 km 2 (140º). Its human development index is high (68º) and its official currency is the Albanian lek. But what language do they speak in Albania?


Albania has only one official language , Albanian . This is spoken by almost the entire population (98.7%).

As minority languages , 2 stand out: Greek (spoken by 0.5% of the population) and Macedonian  (0.2%). Other minority languages ​​are Aromanian, Serbian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Gorani and Romani.

As foreign languages , the most popular language is Italian . This originated when the country was a protectorate of Italy , since Italian was an official language of the country in that period. Most of these speakers did not learn in schools or from books, but rather through television. Rather, English is taught in schools. It is the second most popular language, and the one most learned by young people.


The Albanian ( Shqipe Gjuha ) is spoken by nearly 3 million people in Albania. The two predominant varieties are Tosk and Gheg. The former dominates the southern region, while the latter dominates the northern region, as can be seen in the following map.

The division of these two dialects resides in the Shkumbin River , forming a natural barrier for both sides.


We briefly delve into the history of Albania, a small coastal region in the Balkans, neighboring Greece.


The people of Albania learned to use bronze around 2,100 BC Then around 1,000 BC they learned to use iron. The Iron Age people of Albania are called the Illyrians. The Illyrians came into conflict with Rome and the Romans conquered them in 167 BC.

Under Roman rule , Albania prospered. The Romans built roads in the area and towns like Elbasani grew. However, in 395 the Roman Empire was divided into two parts, East and West. Albania became part of the Eastern Empire, which to us is known as the Byzantine Empire .

During the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries the Germanic peoples invaded Albania several times, but they always withdrew. Between the invasions, life went on as usual.

However, due to its position on the edge of the Byzantine Empire , Albania was weakly defended. In the 10th century, the Bulgarians conquered much of Albania. However, the Byzantines regained their territory in the early 11th century when they were led by Emperor Basil II.


However, in the 11th century the Normans captured Sicily and southern Italy and turned their attention to Albania. They landed on the coast in 1081 and captured Durresi, but the Byzantines recovered it in 1083 with the help of Venice.

In 1204 the crusaders captured Constantinople. For a time Albania was liberated from Byzantine control and it was at stake. A period of war followed with different powers fighting for control of Albania. Venice first seized central and southern Albania, but only directly ruled the main ports.

After 1210 a Greek vassal named Michael Commenus ruled the interior. However, in 1215, Michael turned against the Venetians and formed the spoil of Epirus.

In the late 13th century, the Byzantines fought with the southern kingdom of Italy and Sicily for control of Albania. The Byzantines eventually drove out the Italians , but in the 14th century Albania fell to the Serbs .

The Serbian king Stefan Dusan invaded Albania for the first time in 1343. However, after his death in 1355, the Serbs lost control of Albania and the feudal lords fought each other for control. However, there was a new threat to Albania: the Ottoman Turks .

The Turks occupied southern and central Albania in the years 1415-1423. However, in 1443 a rebellion broke out. It was directed by George Kastrioti (1403-1468). Under his command and that of his son, the northern Albanians continued to resist the Turks until 1479.

Under Turkish rule, some Albanians converted to Islam, although Christians were allowed to practice their religion. In general, the Turkish government brought stability to Albania. However, at the end of the 19th century, a strong independence movement grew in Albania.


The nationalist movement promoted the Albanian language and culture. In 1912 war broke out between the Turks and the Balkan League (Montenegro, Greece , Serbia and Bulgaria ).

By 1912 the Ottoman Empire was in decline and Albanians feared that their country would be divided among the members of the Balkan League. To avoid this, the Albanian leaders met in Vlora and on November 28, 1912, declared independence.

On December 20, 1912, the great European powers ( Great Britain , France , Germany , Austria and Russia ) recognized the independence of Albania. In 1913 they appointed a commission to demarcate the borders of Albania.

However, they refused to recognize the provisional government of Albania. Instead, they made a German prince, William of Wied, king of Albania. William arrived in Albania in March 1914. However, he fled after only six months in September 1914. Albania was divided into regions without any central government.

However, in 1918 the Albanians formed a provisional government. Elections were held and a parliament met in Tirana in 1920. The Albanian Minister of the Interior was Ahmet Zogu (1895-1961). In December 1922 he became Albanian Prime Minister.

However, Zog lost the elections in January 1924 and fled abroad in June 1924. However, in December 1924, with Yugoslav help, he marched on Tirana and overthrew the government. Zogu quickly became a dictator. In 1928 he became King Zog of Albania.

However, Italian influence increased in Albania under the Zog government. Finally, on April 7, 1939 Mussolini, the Italian dictator invaded Albania. Zog fled abroad.

Mussolini installed a puppet government and after Germany conquered Yugoslavia and Greece in 1941, part of their territory was ceded to Albania. However, in November 1941 a Communist Party was formed with Enver Hoxha (1908-1985) as secretary. From the summer of 1942 the Communists fought against the Italians, but when Italy surrendered in 1943 the Germans intervened and occupied Albania.

However, the Communists formed a provisional government in May 1944. In October 1944, the Germans began to withdraw from Albania. Finally, on November 28, 1944, the Communists entered Tirana. They then imposed a totalitarian regime in Albania.

The communists began to nationalize the industry in Albania and at first relations with Yugoslavia were friendly. However, in 1948 Yugoslavia was isolated from the Soviet Union and the other communist countries of Eastern Europe. Albania quickly put an end to economic agreements with Yugoslavia and in 1950 they broke diplomatic relations (they were restored in 1953).

Then, in the late 1950s, relations between the Soviet Union and China worsened. Albania sided with China and in the late 1950s the Chinese increased their economic aid to Albania. Finally, in 1961, Albania broke diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union .

After Mao’s death in 1976, relations between Albania and China cooled down and ordinary people were completely isolated from the rest of the world. Enver Hoxha died in 1985, but the tyrannical regime in Albania continued.

Meanwhile, Enver Hoxha was, like all Marxists, an atheist. In 1967 he declared Albania to be the atheist state of the world. Hoxha did everything he could to eradicate the religion from Albania. All religious buildings were closed and all worship was prohibited.

In 1990, the Albanian leader Ramiz Alia introduced some minor reforms. However, in December 1990, student demonstrations forced the government to allow the formation of other political parties in Albania.

Elections were held on March 31, 1991. The Communists won, but a general strike in June forced them to resign. A coalition ruled Albania until new elections were held in March 1992 and the Communist Party was forced to reinvent itself as a Socialist Party.

Meanwhile, religious freedom was introduced in Albania in 1990. Today, the majority of Albanians are Muslims. Significant minorities are Orthodox or Catholic.

Pyramid investment plans emerged in Albania in 1995 and 1996, but by the end of 1996 they began to collapse. The result was riots in Albania that forced the government to hold new elections in June 1997.


Gradually,, stability returned to Albania. However, since 1998 the Albanian economy has grown, although Albania remains a poor country. Today the government is trying to improve the infrastructure in Albania.

Meanwhile, in 2009 Albania joined NATO. Albania has plans to join the EU. At present, the population of Albania is 2.9 million.

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