The Baptist minister and the Albanian wedding
From the notebook of Graham Sansom, a BMS mission worker and Baptist minister in the southern Albanian town of Vlora:
I was conscious of swaying a little as I walked back to my flat at 2.25am, from the second of consecutive weekend weddings. My unintended meanderings were not due to the effects of alcohol but of sheer tiredness although I had drunk something that I was shortly to regret.
An Albanian couple at their wedding celebrations
My landlord’s son was celebrating his wedding. I rent an apartment in their home and the whole place had resounded to constant loud music, from 6.30am until 11.00pm, for three days, as friends and family came to offer their customary congratulations.
The final celebration began at 9.30pm in a local restaurant. Well, it was supposed to but, as usual, key people arrived late. After a very brief welcome from the groom’s father, music, dancing and eating began almost simultaneously – music so loud as to make conversation virtually impossible, dancing strangely haunting and mesmerising, and food until it came out of your ears!
I was fortunate, on this occasion, to be in a corner furthest from the loudspeakers and sitting almost on top of an air conditioner unit, so I enjoyed being cold at times as dancers returned to the table mopping away their perspiration.
At 11.30 we stood to welcome the bride’s family representatives. A little later they took the dance floor and at 1.30am they left to traditional farewell music and parting customs.
Almost immediately the third full plate of food was served – lamb and chips – but many people produced plastic bags into which the lamb disappeared to become tomorrow’s meal. Not until 2.30am did the groom’s parents and the bride and groom circulate to each table and it became permissible to leave.
It took me 30 minutes to walk home and I was glad of the quietness and the opportunity to ‘walk off’ some of the food. However, I arrived home to find the outer door double-locked and I had not got the appropriate key with me.
To compound my misery, the night watchman wanted to talk. I was exhausted; he was bored. At 4.00am I gained access and slipped into bed but not to sleep. What was that drink they had given me in lieu of beer or wine? Red Bull! (This drink contains a stimulant). I was asleep when the alarm went at 5.30am and I got up to drive visiting friends to the minibus departure point.
“Why such prolonged celebration, so much food, music so very loud?” I ask. “Because we only get married once”, they say.
Sadly, this is no longer true as divorce is increasing in Albania, a nation still in the relatively early years of its ‘freedom’.
Praise the Lord, we are also celebrating more and more weddings of Christian couples – but that is another story.
More information about Albania can be found here
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