Hours Socially Active: 13 / House Visits: 6 / Cups of Turkish Coffee: 4 / Offerings of Baklava: 3
Quick dive into what Bajram (or Bajrami or Eid al-Adha or Eid al-Fitr) is:
Simply put, it’s a celebration after Ramadan ends.
Quick dive into what Ramadan is (I’m covering all the bases here): the 9th month of the Islamic calendar where Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, devoting themselves more to their faith in order to feel closer to Allah, or God. I mentioned Iftar in my post about meeting my host family, which is the meal practicing Muslims eat after sundown (after not eating/drinking all day… so it’s a pretty joyous occasion).
So… Bajram is like the joy of Iftar (eating and drinking after not doing so for upwards of 18 hours) multiplied by infinity. A few days before Bajram when I had asked my host family what to expect for the holiday, they had compared it to Christianity’s Christmas. At first, I thought (being the dramatic person that I am): ‘huh, is it also a capitalistic exploitation of a religious holiday intended for genuine devotion to faith?’ But, after spending 13 hours participating in Bajram traditions with my temporary family, I get what they meant. Bajram is essentially everything Christmas is supposed to be: a day full of love, generosity, food, friends, and, most importantly, family. It was like taking out the materialistic element of Christmas and upping the generosity aspect tenfold.
Before I delve too much into the comparisons between Bajram and Christmas, or any other “profound” (super basic) observations, I’m just going to run through my first Bajram as an inexperienced American raised as a Christian, in a more or less Christian society.
The night before Bajram, my host mom told me to be ready at 8 in the morning. Already not off to a great start. But, taking everything in stride, I nodded and set my alarm for earlier than I had wanted to. My family also presented me with a Bajram gift. They’re too good to me.
The next day, I woke up, got ready, drank some Turkish coffee with my host mom and sister, changed into what I was going to wear for the day (I got mixed signals about the dress code and opted to be overdressed rather than underdressed), and started on the house visits. It varies greatly from family to family, but most families during Bajram visit their family members’ houses. I knew that much. What I didn’t know, however, was how much sugar would be included in these house visits.
It was 8:20ish, my host family and I had just walked next door to the grandparents’ house, sat down on their couch, and were offered glasses of Coke, sweets (think sugar coated with sugar), and coffee (which I gladly accepted…). We sat, chatted, and then left, within about 30 minutes. As we were leaving, I thought: that was a little short.
We then proceeded to go to my host dad’s brother’s family’s (yikes that’s a lot of possessives) house on the other side of our house, were offered mango juice (the first of a variety of fruit juice offerings that day) and more sweets, chatted for about 15 or 20 minutes, and then went back to our house for a meal. It was 9:30. 2 houses down. I could already feel my teeth rotting.
I figured that the meal at home would be something breakfast-y due to the timing, but I was very wrong. The meal included soup, giant turkey legs, salad, a traditional Bajram dish that I can’t remember the name of (I just know it included a flaky crust, as most food items here do), and baklava. This meal started the theme of the day of being really, really, uncomfortably full. Following breakfast (? Second Breakfast? Lunch?) we drove a few minutes or so to visit more family that I hadn’t met yet. We were offered sweets again, fruit juice (this time it was blueberry), chatted, and left within 20 minutes. 3 houses down.
Then I went with my host mom to her salon to wait for a customer. At first, we just sat on our phones, her occasionally sending me pictures via Facebook Messenger of us from the short time I’ve been here and waiting for me to smile at her.
It was only 11:30 but I was already ready for a nap. I motioned to my host mom that I was ready to sleep, thinking she’d find it funny considering how many naps I take here and how we frequently joke about it, but much to my surprise, she motioned for me to stand up. I followed her to the back of her salon, where there was a bed. She then motioned for me to get in, I did, she tucked me in and left me giggling in the surprisingly comfortable and surprisingly… there, bed. I only was able to take a quick cat nap before being woken up by the customer coming into the salon, but just being able to lay down was enough to help me power through the rest of the day.
After my host mom finished her customer’s hair, we went back to the house only for a quick bathroom break before immediately heading out with my host dad’s roommate from college’s family (I had actually talked to his roommate the previous Tuesday when my host family took me out to get coffee after dinner – he had lived in America for a while and had awesome insight into Kosovar vs. American culture, also great English speaking ability) and my dad’s brother’s family to visit my host dad’s mom’s sister’s (wow… more possessives) family. We were offered Coke, more sweets, coffee (score), and fruit juice (cranberry this time), chatted for closer to 30 or 40 minutes, and then left. 4 houses down.
Here’s what the setup was at this house in particular, but was pretty much mimicked at every house, just to give some context:
My host family then went to the roommate’s family’s house for (you guessed it!) fruit juice (this one was a blend with multiple types of fruit in it), Coke, sweets, coffee, baklava, and (my favorite of the day) watermelon. We stayed there for a significantly longer time (probably closer to 2 hours) chatting, before going to a restaurant (for whatever reason). Some of the kids got meals, and my host family made the assumption that I had not had enough sugar yet and ordered me ice cream. After 40 minutes or so, we left. 5 houses and 1 restaurant down.
Following that, we went home to change (it had grown surprisingly chilly due to the rain) and freshen up, before driving a few villages over for dinner at my host mom’s family’s house. My host sister explained that it’s pretty traditional to have dinner at the mom’s family’s house for Bajram. The village was super charming, and my host family pointed out a creek near my host mom’s mom’s house that had ducks that I should go see. After greeting family, I went down to the creek with my host mom and brother to see the ducks, slipped on the slope because it had been raining and my shoes were not intended for wet, steep creek banks, and slid down by the creek. My host mom looked like she had a heart attack, I laughed it off as being my usual clumsy self, and I could tell the 2 boys from the village that were there were thinking something along the lines of: stupid American. And they wouldn’t be wrong.
The slope was steeper than it looks…
After walking back to the house, being offered more sweets and fruit juice (peach! A new one), it was time for dinner. But, considering I had been doing literally nothing but eating too much and drinking various fruit juices all day, I couldn’t eat much. What I did eat was phenomenal. Once I fulfilled the theme of the day of being really, really, uncomfortably full, my host mom’s mom offered me baklava and I had to firmly refuse because I didn’t want to throw up on their nice table (aren’t I thoughtful?).
We said our goodbyes and drove back to our village around 9. The long day had taken its toll on everyone and I was 100% done socializing. Once we got back to our house, I promptly said “natën e mirë!” (Goodnight in Albanian) to my family and went to my room.
Despite being pulled a little thin in terms of socializing, I had a great day. In my short time here, I’ve absolutely loved learning more about the Islamic faith and am super thankful to have been able to experience my first authentic Bajram in Kosova.