A Modern Pagan Festival: Summer Day in Albania

01 Mar 2023 - Category: Blog /
summerday albania

Dita e Veres (Vereza) is a pagan festival celebrated in Albania, a country that looks over the Mediterranean sea in Southeastern Europe. While the festival isn’t particularly well-known outside of the small country, its influence reaches across the country, with villages, towns, and cities alike all hosting their own gatherings. Existing for over 1,000 years, the festival was eventually named an official holiday in 2004 and has earned it recognition among other March-Summer Balkan traditions by UNESCO.


What is Dita e Veres?

Despite Dita e Veres meaning “Summer day” in the Albanian language, the festivities are held on March 14th. This date discrepancy is largely due to the pagan nature of the festival, meaning Dita e Veres is celebrated on March 1st of the Julian calendar, which is actually the first day of the new year (March 14th in the Gregorian calendar).

The festival has only begun to be celebrated massively all over the country only in the last decade, especially after being named an official holiday by the Albanian Government in 2004. However, its roots can be traced back to ancient times in the city of Elbasan, where a the pagan Goddess of hunting, forests, and nature is believed to have (in the Pagan tradition) made an appearance annually to mark the beginning of Summer. To this day, Elbasan remains the epicentre of the celebrations, with many Albanians traditionally travelling to the area on the day.

Once a largely religious festival, Summer Day has largely become a day to celebrate Albanian heritage, tradition, and culture.

What is the Most Popular Holiday in Albania?

New Year’s Eve is the most preferred holiday among Albanians, with 96% of them preferring the special day. This result is similar to the trend seen worldwide of people favouring the larger, more global holidays. However, Summer Day holds a special significance countrywide as a holiday that’s unique to Albania, making it invaluable to Albanians.

The Best Festival in Albania?

While Dita e Nënë Terezës (Mother Theresa day) and Dita e Pavarësisë (Independence day) are much-loved among Albanians, Dita e Veres holds a special place in their collective heart as a light-hearted, easy-going day of giving and gratitude. The pagan festival also wins the hearts of tourists, forming a large part of why people visit the country in early Spring. While there’s no exact way to determine the best festival in Albania, Summer Day stands a chance of earning top spot due to its inclusiveness across all demographics and rungs of Albanian society.

Why is Dita e Veres Celebrated?

This festival claims origins to the temple of the Mountain Muse (Zana Malit), which was constructed near the city of Shkumbin (Elbasan). Dwelling within the temple was Muse, thought to be the goddess of hunting, forests, and nature. One day a year, on March 14th, she would exit her temple, marking the beginning of Summer.

Traditionally, locals of Elbasan celebrated the day as the end of winter while welcoming the rebirth of nature. The pagan origins of the festival mean that the underlying current of the day is connected with nature and the changing of the seasons. In the Pagan of tradition, the March usually marked the start of the farming season, meaning that it was important to celebrate the gods and goddesses that, according to their beliefs, would determine the success of their harvests in October later that year. However, as the tradition spread throughout the country, it became a day to celebrate the shared culture and spirit among Albanians.

Still, to this day, much like other Pagan festivals held across Europe, there’s a mix of tradition and modernity to the day, with Summer Day being adapted with each passing year.

How is Dita e Veres Celebrated?

Many Albanians mark the special day by wearing a traditional bracelet called Verore (a word derived from summer.) The bracelet is crafted from thin braided strings and is usually red and white in colour. However, many variations exist. At the end of the day, the bracelet is hung on a tree branch for good luck, and it is believed that birds use it to build their nests.

Throughout the country, parades, concerts, and gatherings take place. These festivities are often set to the backdrop of bonfires as night begins to fall. In Elbasan, the hometown of Dita e Veres, celebrations tend to be a little bigger, with preparations starting in late February/early March. Locals will make sweets and especially ballakume, a large cookie native to Albania, made with butter, sugar, corn flour, and egg yolks.

Families often bake their own Ballokume using their family recipe that’s often been passed down from generation to generation. Considered a source of pride, they will then exchange the Ballokume with other families and friends as a token of appreciation.

Overall, the holiday maintains a family and traditional atmosphere when children, parents, extended family, and friends celebrate together.

What do Albanians celebrate today?

While on Summer Day, people celebrate the end of winter, the rebirth of nature, and a rejuvenation of spirit among Albanians, they also celebrate the life and achievements of Mother Theresa on Dita e Nënë Terezës. Showcasing their religious diversity, some of the most popular celebrations in Albania are Christmas (Catholic and Orthodox), Easter (Catholic and Orthodox), Eid al-Adha, Eid al-Fitr (Islam), and Sultan Nowruz Day (Bektashi).

Dita e Veres draws many people to Albania every year to witness the unique Albanian festivities. What once was a celebration of the start of Summer has evolved into an ode to the Albanian people, celebrated country-wide with gatherings, parades, and bonfires. Every year, the people of Albania gather to pay homage to their heritage while showing gratitude to one another while wishing for a prosperous future.

If you’d like to get in on the action and enjoy your own slice of Summer Day this March 14th, you can travel to Albania and learn more about its culture, food and currency.

If this year you cannot travel there, you can always join the celebration sending money to Albania. With Small World you can do that from the comfort of your home through our app or website. Plus the first online transaction is fee free!

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