Today in Albania, the day of spring is celebrated. The city of Elbasan has always been the heart of this great party.
The 14 Marzo is the most cheerful of all the days of the year and the white night that preceded it is the most fun of the Albanian spring nights. Elbasan will wake up noisy, joyful and excited at the dawn of this festive day.
While in the main square, next to the magnificent and millenary Roman castle, the final preparations of the show are taken care of, the housewives offer already in the early morning, the typical dessert called Ballakume. I seem to hear from here, that heavenly perfume mixed with cornmeal and fresh melted butter that invades the whole city and lasts for days and days!
Sweet as the ballakume are my memories in Elbasan: I used to go there every 14 March in my mother's hometown. Curiously, that day hardly ever rains and all the young people seem to be the children of the sun so much they have made themselves beautiful and so smile! As a baby, I was sure this city had made a secret deal with the sun, but I never found out what they gave him in return!
Tradition has it that we wake up early because those who sleep this first solar day, will sleep the most in the coming new year. The girls prepare the beautiful bracelets made up of many colored and woven threads, to then give them to everyone, family, friends and acquaintances. Beautiful new clothes and winter boots are worn, giving way to comfortable summer sandals that are also strictly new, just like new is the year that has just begun.
Families prepare to go out to visit other family and friends where the smallest child in the family, will run to enter the house first, offering the typical cake to the guests. After this exchange of sweets and wishes, all together they head towards the central square to listen and sing together the happy songs dedicated to nature, love, spring and flowers.
At the end of the show, the fairy-tale flowered clearings of tourist areas such as Byshek, Gjinar, Gurra and Labinotit, Kroi i Kalit, Cezma and Lepurit, etc., are filled with cheerful people who will go there, outdoors, in contact with nature to consume the first spring lunch. The boys organize traditional games, the girls play and dance and the children chase each other. The sight of such a scenario cheers and fascinates. At least for one day a year, the first day of the calendar year according to the ancient Illyrian calendar, one lives in a heavenly harmony.
This celebration of Spring finds its roots in the ancient Illyrian pagan civilization (ancient Albania) and after millennia the rituals remained the same. Celebrated by all Albanians, 14 Marzo finds its heart in Elbasan because the Temple of the Goddess Diana Candieviensis and Goddess of the Universe and Reproduction, was located in the area of Çermenikas, near Elbasan.
The Illyrians arrived from all parts of Illyria, traveling for months, in order to venerate and demonstrate devotion to the Goddess Diana, cult of all that the Spring, season of life and regeneration, brings with the beginning of the new year. A feast for all, rich and poor, politicians and non-politicians, it has remained the same over the years and we can say that even today Albania celebrates in total harmony without distinguishing between social and religious positions. The most popular Albanian festival, 14 Marzo resisted all religions, contaminations, ideologies and systems that have crossed and still cross Albania today.
Want to know more: read 14 March, the summer day ritual
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