Historically and culturally Albanian Christianity is more Orthodox than Catholic. Nonetheless, both Catholic and Orthodox Easter are official holidays in Albania.
|2019||21 Apr||Sun||Catholic Easter Sunday|
|22 Apr||Mon||Catholic Easter Monday|
|28 Apr||Sun||Orthodox Easter Sunday|
|29 Apr||Mon||Orthodox Easter Monday|
|2020||12 Apr||Sun||Catholic Easter Sunday|
|13 Apr||Mon||Catholic Easter Monday|
|19 Apr||Sun||Orthodox Easter Sunday|
|20 Apr||Mon||Orthodox Easter Monday|
Due to the Orthodox reliance on the older Julian calendar and Catholic use of the Gregorian calendar, the dates do not match. Orthodox Easter is usually at least a week later than Catholic Easter.
When Easter arrives, many Albanians remember the dark days of Communism, when Easter was banned. A man could literally go to “the gulag” if the state police discovered an Easter egg in his home or even painted egg shells on his compost heap. Today, however, those days are only a lingering memory.
The Easter season begins with Lent for both Catholics and Orthodox, though the dates of Lent vary with those of Easter since it is always 40 days before Easter Sunday. Just before Lent, carnival celebrations go on for days on end but suddenly stop on Ash Wednesday, when the fasting begins.
Both Catholic and Orthodox believers will attend services throughout Holy Week, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, despite usually going on different dates. Both faiths hold Holy Saturday vigils to welcome Resurrection Morning. Orthodox follow up the vigil with early-morning prayer and song services.
Both faiths decorate Easter eggs, the Orthodox dyeing many of their eggs red to symbolise the blood of Christ. Orthodox also eat a special Easter bread, drink brandy, and eat roast lamb for Easter dinner. Catholics may take part in some of these cultural traditions as well, being Albanians, and because Catholics, Orthodox, and even Muslims often “borrow, mix, and match” religious feasts and practices in Albania.
Should you be in Albania during Easter, here are some ideas on what to do:
- Attend Orthodox Easter services at Resurrection of Christ Orthodox Cathedral in Tirana, the capital. The cathedral, finished in 2012, is one of the largest in the Balkans. It has a large 16-bell tower with an Orthodox-style cross on top, which bear fours “Paschal candles” that stand for the light of the four Gospel Resurrection accounts.
- Attend Catholic Easter services at the Saint Stephen’s Cathedral in the town of Shkoder in northwest Albania. The cathedral was built in the 19th Century and has a long, interesting history. It is named after the first Christian martyr, Stephen, who saw the risen Christ giving a “standing ovation” at the right hand of the Father as he died. A prayer for the forgiveness of his murderers was on his lips.
- Tour the country, from the majestic, snow-capped Albanian Alps to the beaches of Sarande, Vlore, and the Karaburun Peninsula. Also look for numerous historic sites, for castles in Shkoder, Berat, and many other locations, and for a panoramic view of Albania’s history at Tirana’s National History Museum.
Albania has “two Easters,” giving tourists the chance to experience one, the other, or both, depending on when they visit and how long they stay. Albania also has numerous year-round attractions that should not be missed regardless of when you visit.