Ramadan in Albania
Ramadan and Eid traditions vary across the different regions of Albania. During 50 years of strict communism all religious practices such as the prayer, were banned and almost disappeared. Nobody knew if you were fasting or not and so the fast was the one practice that people could maintain without people knowing. Here is a snapshot of some of the customs from a northern part of Albania called Shkodra:
Boom ba ba Boom! The ‘lodra’ sounds and stirs everyone from their sleep. The lodra is a double-ended cylinder drum covered in sheep or goat skin. The drummer hits each end with different sticks, resulting in a two-tone beat. One side is beaten with a wooden hammer-head drumstick, while the other side is hit with ‘thane’ – red branches, stripped of bark, which grow mainly in the mountains.
The drummer is traditionally from the Gypsy community and it is customary to give him food or money in recognition of his vital service. He might also be invited for Syfyr (pre dawn breakfast), or Iftar (meal at break of fast).
The food that is eaten for the two main meals of Ramadan varies greatly between households as there is so much to choose from, and it is impossible to have everything at the same time. There are many similarities between Albanian and Turkish food, however Albania has some unique dishes created from an imaginative use of basic ingredients. You could select from Byrek, a flat flaky pastry pie eaten hot or cold, containing meat, spinach, or curds; Pastice, pasta with a milk, cheese, egg and butter sauce; Pettulla, fried dough with sweet or savoury filling such as jam, cream sauces or cheese; or Imam Bayudin, an aubergine dish with garlic.
The drummer comes around once again to sound Iftar (break of fast). Iftars are such a strong tradition that they are also offered by Christians to fasting Muslims and attended by Christians as social gatherings.
Eid lasts for three days and is an event that children of all religions look forward to. Traditional gifts include new clothes and sweets, and children also gather sweets by visiting houses with bags that everyone contributes to. The first day of celebrations is spent at home with the family, while the next two days are spent visiting or receiving guests by mutual arrangement.
‘Byram Mubarak!’ is the greeting on everyone’s lips at this time, as ‘Byram’ is the Albanian word for Eid.
Prayer and Zakat
The mosques are occupied throughout Ramadan as people attend the Tarawih at the end of the day. As there are many impoverished people in Albania, Zakat is traditionally given personally to those whom you know are less fortunate than yourself.
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