Dita e Verës (literally translated as ‘Day of Summer’) is celebrated across Albania on March 14th, and it is a public holiday with a long-standing tradition and great significance for the Albanian people. This holiday often earns confused looks from foreigners, because why would you celebrate Summer’s Day when it’s hardly spring? So, let’s see where Summer’s Day in Albania comes from and how it is celebrated.

 

Why is Summer’s Day in Albania celebrated on March 14th

Funnily enough there is a really good explanation for this. Summer’s Day is a pagan holiday that has been celebrated in the region long before our current calendars. In fact you need to go ahead to the times prior to 46 BC to understand the origin of Summer’s Day and why it is celebrated at this time of year.

Before the Gregorian and Julian calendars Albanians (who were potentially more known as part of the Illyrians) had their own calendar, filled with celebrations of various pagan festivals one of which was Summer’s Day. Way back in those days the year was simply split into 2 seasons, summer and winter and Summer’s Day fell on the first 3 days of the new year and therefore marked the end of the winter season, and the beginning of Summer.

Today, Summer’s Day is especially celebrated in Elbasan on March 13th and 14th.

How is Summer’s Day celebrated in Albania?

Dita e Verës is celebrated across Albania, but there are regional differences in festivities.

Bonfires

In many cities across Albania bonfires are lit on the night of March 13th to drive away the winter and to strengthen the sun. Sometimes children would jump over the fires.

Ballokume

The distinctive sign that Summer’s Day is nearly here is the arrival of the ballokume in shops and bakeries across the country. They are special sugar cookies made with Albanian corn and usually only eaten around this time of year.

Image Source: Atlantiku.com

Verore – A red and white bracelet

A red and white wool bracelet called “Verore” is worn to celebrate the beginning of Summer. Traditionally you’d wear the bracelet until you see the first swallow and then tie it to the branch of a tree and make a wish.

This tradition in itself isn’t exclusive to Albania, but is common in many Balkan countries, so much that it has been protected by the UNESCO.

Image Source: Exit.al

Picnics

In the morning of March 14th many families visit relatives and bring food and drink to share before heading out for a communal picnic. 

Visit Elbasan

Many families also choose to travel to Elbasan for the day. The streets leading into Elbasan are usually lined with people selling ballokume and the city usually hosts a large street festival with many people dressed in costumes. There are  concerts, games and performances around the centre.

Below you will find a video from fellow foreigner James Leithart showing you Summer’s Day in Elbasan a few years ago.

Regional differences

There are regional differences when it comes to Summer’s Day. In Tropojë many people gather in the village of Luzhë where they seek help and prosperity from tombs turned into idols. The idols are located far into the mountains and people travel for kilometers to reach them.

In Dibër fires are lit in the evening of March 13th. Then around 4 in the morning they wake up to “close the doors” – they tie the lock of the gate with wool. Boiled eggs are also commonly eaten.

Children in Skrapar go from door to door singing the song of Summer’s Day. As a gift they receive boiled eggs which they crack on each other’s heads. The typical dish in Skrapar is Anak (a pie with wild greens) and in the evenings fires are lit to bid farewell to the old and bad.

In Berat groups of children dress up as the devil with various costumes and masks before making their way through the neighbourhoods to the city’s central square.

In Kukës it’s tradition to make fli on March 14th. Flija is a traditional Albanian dish made from layers of pastry similar to crêpes and served with sour cream and butter.

Summer’s Day is also celebrated in Kosovo with singing, dancing, lighting fires and picking spring flowers.