Christmas in Albania

I have been asked whether or not Albania celebrates Christmas since it has such a large Muslim community.  From what I can tell, everyone in Albania celebrates Christmas.  There are Christmas trees, wreaths, lights, Santa Clauses, and Christmas music playing everywhere.  That being said, I have never seen any reference to the birth of Christ, a nativity scene or any indication that Christmas is a Christian holiday.

New Year’s Day is a much bigger celebration than Christmas here.  This is because during Communist time (roughly 1945-1992) there could be no mention of anything religious.  Most churches and mosques were destroyed during this time. If a person spoke of religion or tried to practice any religion they were at risk of being jailed or executed. Because all religion was banned, New Year’s Day became a big holiday for Albanians. Santa Claus visits the children of Albania on New Year’s Eve.  It is tradition to have lots  of fireworks to celebrate the new year. Also, it is tradition to serve a big family meal that includes turkey.  New Years Day is the only time of the year when turkey is a tradition to serve. Also we have been told that all the shops close down for the first three days of the year to celebrate.

Here are a few pictures of Christmas in Albania.

The city square has a huge tree surrounded by carnival rides that have been brought in for the season.  There are also several temporary coffee shops that are put up on the square for the holidays.
This is a statue of Skanderbeg, an Albanian hero, who is surrounded by Christmas decorations at the city center.



I especially like this picture because it shows the Christmas lights on the Clock Tower next to the Mosque. It is a good example of how the Christian and Muslim communities get along so well. Also there are currently lots of carnival rides set up in the city center for Christmas.


The school has their own tree…
…as does the local market…
…as does the mall.

Here the Grade One students are singing a traditional Albanian song which is sung for New Year’s Day. It was so cool to watch the children sing!  They were confident and obviously knew the song well.  It was not a song they had learned at school but rather one they all knew through their family traditions. One thing I love about Albanians is how connected they are with their families. They have strong traditions and pass them along through their family.

Since I have mentioned school it reminds me that I keep forgetting to give you the link to another blog.  Each teacher is required to maintain a blog that is updated weekly and serves as a way to communicate with parents. As you will see, the blog includes lots of pictures because some parents are not strong English speakers and the pictures allow them the opportunity to see what their children do at school.  The link to the blog is  Click on “More” at the top of the blog’s page to see my class.

Tomorrow I am flying to South Africa to spend two weeks with the Chervenak family.  I will meet Randy and Josh there.  Unfortunately David has to work so we will not see him at Christmas this year.  😦  I am looking forward to visiting South Africa but mostly I cannot wait to see the family and spend some time together!!

Randy and I are not sending Christmas cards this year so I want to take this time to wish our family and friends a very merry Christmas and all the best in 2019.  Thank you so much for all of your support and interest as we have the experience of living abroad for a couple of years. Come visit us in Albania in 2019!  We would love to host you!

December, 2018

20 thoughts on “Christmas in Albania

  1. Very interesting! I noticed the Angels hanging above the street. I was surprised to see that. The huge red bow on the building was interesting.


  2. Dear Sarah,I love to receive these e-mails. What a wonderful experience you are sharing with all of us back home. I wish you, Randy and your family a most joyous holiday season.Sincerely,Randal

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sarah,
    I loved reading about Christmas in Albania! Aren’t traditions around the world fascinating?
    Cannot wait to hear how the visit to South Africa goes with the Chervenaks! Do update us!
    Send me potential dates for my 2019 visit as soon as you look at your calendar!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sarah, thanks for another joyful, informative and wonderfully-written blog post! And I love your classroom page. As much as I miss you in Fairport, it makes me so happy to see how your students, their families and the staff at your school are benefiting from having you there. I know you will enjoy your visit to South Africa. I bet those kids and grand kids can’t wait to see you! Ann P.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Sarah-thanks for sharing–Christmas Trees in school-unreal! Hope you and family have a safe and enjoyable trip–and Merry Christmas to all-Jim

    On Wed, Dec 19, 2018 at 1:44 PM Teaching in Albania wrote:

    > Sarah Williams posted: “I have been asked whether or not Albania > celebrates Christmas since it has such a large Muslim community. From what > I can tell, everyone in Albania celebrates Christmas. There are Christmas > trees, wreaths, lights, Santa Clauses, and Christmas music play” >

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family, Sarah! I look forward to your blogs and am learning so much from your adventures. Safe travels and the happiest of holidays! Love, Lynne

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Love your blog! It’s so interesting to learn of Albanian’s culture, traditions, & the history behind them. I feel like we have a front row seat with your wonderful descriptions! I bet New Years is truly celebratory. Merry Christmas, my friend … enjoy your family visit. Hugs to all of you!



    1. Hi Lisa, Were both your kids home for Christmas? I hope so. Three more days in South Africa and then we head back to Albania. It will be hard to say good bye to Josh and the Chervenaks. As corny as it might seem, I do miss my Albanian students and new friends there so hopefully the re-entry into the real world will not be too tough. Blessings to you in 2019! Miss you, friend!


  8. Love reading about your adventures! How exciting!
    Please tell your family I send them love and wish you all a very Merry Christmas.


  9. Wow, Sarah, just amazing! Thank you for sharing everything with us. So great to read and to be informed. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Enjoy spending time with your family:-) Take care!
    Kathy L.


    1. Thanks, Kathy, I am glad you like the blog. Teaching abroad really has been an amazing experience. You and Ryan should consider it someday. 🙂 Hope you and your family had a good Christmas. I have lost track, is Tommy in his freshman year of college now? If so, where is he going to school?


  10. Sarah, Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us! I have learned so much and you inspire me to make the most of whatever opportunities come my way after retirement! Hope you are having a wonderful time in South Africa!


    1. Happy New Year, Martha! Good to hear that you are still enjoying the blog. Yay, I am glad you feel inspired. YES, there are so many opportunities out there that you and I probably know nothing about. Go for it! Retiring from teaching at Dudley will probably be bittersweet but I am already looking forward to hearing what you will do next.


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