New Years is certainly Albania's biggest and most anticipated holiday. The entire country celebrates this holiday; every town, big and small. There are huge parties, lots of fireworks, and people stay out until 6 am. Tirana, Albania's capital city is no different. Unlike in the United States, New Years is a family holiday and most people spend the majority of the evening with their families. From about 7 pm to 12 am families gather together, eat dinner, and celebrate the New Year. At 12 am everyone, including young children, go out to light off fireworks and/or watch the fireworks go off all around them. Finally, at around 1 am people start going out to bars and clubs.
Personally, I think this is a great way to celebrate the New Year. I feel like there is always so much expectation associated with New Years and most of the time it doesn't live up to whatever one has expected for the night. However, the way that Albanians celebrate New Years focuses more on spending time with family and close friends and just letting loose. This is exactly how I spent my New Years (except without the family part).
I was in Tirana for New Years. From about 8 pm till 10:30 pm 3 other PCVs and myself hung out and got ourselves ready for the evening. It was pretty relaxing and a lot of fun just chatting about our Christmases and other various topics. Finally at 10:30 pm we headed out to dinner. Upon leaving our hostel, the streets of Tirana were almost empty. It was a bit eerie to be out on New Years and not see very many people roaming the streets. The reason not many people were out was because everyone was at home with their families eating dinner. We got to dinner and had a great time at the restaurant. Our waiter was very accommodating and friendly. Albanians are particularly interested in Americans who know how to speak Shqip (Albanian). After dinner, coincidentally right at midnight, we went outside to a large park in the middle of Tirana and watched all the fireworks go off. There were people in the park lighting fireworks off and the Bashkia (municipality) of Tirana also put on a firework show at midnight. I am not exaggerating when I say that there were fireworks exploding all around us. It was a pretty unbelievable site.
After about 45 min to an hour of fireworks we headed out to the bars. At the bar all we did was dance. There was great music and we met some pretty cool people. We left that place around 4 am and finally headed back to the hostel. After a few hours of dancing we were all pooped. It was a really fun night and a great way to spend New Years. I can't wait till next year!