I’ve lived in Albania for almost a year now, and as of yet no day has been complete without an explosion. Gun shots. Fireworks. Construction. You name it, I’ve heard it. So it shouldn’t have been a shock to me that the highlight of the New Year’s celebrations was in fact, fireworks.
Now, I don’t mean your typical American-style, Fourth of July firework show. There is no organization, no time schedule, no designated location, and police enforcement…nothing. Instead, as you walk the streets of the city waiting for the clock to strike midnight, you are surrounded by random explosions at your feet. That’s right. Not all fireworks go up here in Albania. In fact, most for sideways.
I spent the holiday with my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers in the city of Korca where we were constantly bombarded with little firecrackers that make loud noises as they hit the ground at your feet and cause the surrounding children to burst out laughing that they “hit the Americans.” As the night progresses, so do the size of the fireworks. At one point, I was legitimately in the middle of the firework. No joke. I watched a father put a firework into his sons hands that was bigger than he was, point it in my general direction, and let it rip. I saw the entire formation of bright colors surround me as if I was sitting on a cloud on the Fourth of July.
I should have taken this as a sign and called it a night, but I was determined to witness my first Albanian New Year’s Eve. So we stayed out with the crowds in the streets waiting for midnight. All around me were vendors selling fireworks bigger and more powerful than I’ve ever seen in my life, to 8-year-old children (no adults in site). And where are the police amidst all this chaos? Clapping and cheering on the little kids as they blow things up.
Every year several people throughout the country die from these explosions, and yet they continue the tradition. So the next time you are looking for something new and exciting to do on New Year’s, come run the gauntlet in Albania! When walking down the street makes you questions whether you are in the middle of a war zone or a celebration, what else is there to do but join in. It’s a hell of a lot of fun, that’s for sure!
“It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just different.”