elbasan summer day

Summer Day in Albania

February 4, 2022
Creative, Food & Wine

Despite Albania’s mostly Mediterranean climate, winters here can be long, dark and cold. It is therefore hardly surprising that the most popular traditional holiday in the country, Dita e Verës or Summer Day, is celebrated with the purpose of driving out winter and welcoming the arrival of spring. If you want to know more about Albanian folk culture and traditions, or if you feel a bit sick of winter already, you should definitely mark March 14 in your calendar and join the celebrations!

What is the story behind celebrating Summer Day?

It is actually quite an understatement to say that Summer Day is a “traditional” holiday. In fact, the day supposedly has its origins in ancient pagan rites which were practiced thousands of years ago by the Illyrian tribes living in the western Balkans – and legend has it that these rites have been passed on almost unaltered from generation to generation since then. In case you were wondering about that: Also the origin of the day’s name can be found in antiquity (because even in Albania, March is not quite summer yet). Back in the time, only two seasons were recognized – summer and winter.

Disclaimer: Don’t confuse Summer Day with Nowruz, an originally Persian holiday with a similar theme (bye winter, hello summer) which is celebrated just some days later by the Bektashi community.

Where should you celebrate Summer Day?
elbasan summer day

Summer Day is celebrated with slight variations in most towns and villages throughout Albania. However, the undisputed place to be on March 14 is Elbasan, a small, charming city south of Tirana. The most elaborate festivities are taking place here because in antiquity probably a temple dedicated to Diana Kandaviensis, the Illyrian goddess of wilderness, forests and hunting, was located in the mountains nearby. Most likely, the cult around that goddess involved the reverence of nature, female fertility, and the creation of new life, which can explain why Summer Day was an important celebration in the region. From Tirana, you can get to Elbasan easily by car via the newly built highway, and there are plenty of buses going between the two cities every day,

What should you do when celebrating Summer Day?


Summer Day celebrations vary slightly from place to place throughout Albania, but always involve public celebrations. In Elbasan for example, a large carnival and a fair are set up on the boulevard in front of the city’s castle area. Together with locals and other visitors from near and far, you can grab a beer and some delicious food, listen to a wide variety of traditional and modern music, purchase some products from local farmers and artisans, and otherwise enjoy the energetic hustle and bustle all around you.

Get a bracelet

When celebration Summer Day, is a tradition to get a red and white bracelet, and wear it until you see the first swallow. Then, the bracelet can be removed and placed on the branch of a tree. If you have a whish in mind, you can speak that (silently); but even without a specific whish, the tradition is supposed to bring good luck for the remaining year.

Eat Ballokume

Maybe no luck, but definitely a lot of happiness (and maybe a sugar rush) is what you will get from eating Ballokume. Ballokume are basically oversized cookies (or small, flat cakes), made from corn flour, butter, sugar, and eggs. They are one of Elbasan’s culinary specialties and only baked for the occasion of Summer Day – so don’t miss your chance to taste them!

Go for a picnic

Speaking about food: On Summer Day, you should also follow the example of the area’s residents, and go for a picnic with your family and friends. The beautiful green hills and olive groves around Elbasan are the perfect spot for celebrating the arrival of spring, and – secret tip – they feature scenic views over the region. This is also a great opportunity to pick some flowers or a small patch of grass with its roots and take them home with you – another tradition on Summer Day.

Written by: Julianne Zimmerman, intern at Elite Travel Group

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