Summer Day, also called Dita e Veres, occurs each year on March 14th in Albania.
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This is the largest pagan festival in the entire country. The reason behind the Summer Day celebration is that it represents the end of the winter season, the rejuvenation of the spirit of the Albanians, and the rebirth of nature. While most festivities take place in the Shkumbin region of Elbasan, the festival is also celebrated in Tirana, as well as in some Arberesh colonies in Italy. Summer Day became an official holiday in Albania in 2004.
Origins of Summer Day
The Summer Day festival celebrates the start of warmer weather. The root of this festival has been tracked to the temple of the Zaa Malit, (Mountain Muse) built nearby the city of Shkumbin. The goddess of nature, forests, and hunting, Muse, only emerged from her temple on March 14th, which also indicated the beginning of the summer season. This is a legend that has been passed from generation to generation in Albania.
In the past, the only city that observed Summer Day was Elbasan; however, today, people all across Albania take part in the festivities. In addition to locals participating in the celebration, thousands of visitors from outside the country come to Albania to watch the unique culture and traditions that are part of the Summer Day celebration.
Summer Day Traditions
On March 14th, many unmarried people and young people wear a Verore, which is a traditional bracelet made of two braided strings. The thin strings are typically white and red in colour. At the day’s end, the bracelet is hung on a branch to provide good luck. It is believed that birds use these bracelets to build nests during the summer months.
During the Summer Day celebration, there are many festivities organised in the country, including a city marathon, and in Rinia Park, a circus show occurs. This is typically held in the evening and packed full of magicians, acrobats, circus performers, and people who are celebrating the festival.
After the circus show, many families make large meals to share with others, filled with national dishes. Unique methods of cooking these dishes are used for Summer Day celebrations. Also, children in Albania usually receive dried figs and nuts during the Summer Day celebration. Another tradition is the giving of ballakume, which is a traditional cookie from Elbasan, as well as the meeting with nature. All Albanians, and many visitors, meet at the centre of the city and then leave with friends and family members to beautiful areas in the city or to restaurants to continue the celebration.
If you plan to visit Albania on the Summer Day celebration, it is important to note that all stores, government offices, and schools remain closed. However, the festivities are fun and exciting, and make this the ideal time for anyone to visit.