Baklava is always present on Albanian tables on New Year’s Day. Its taste adds sweetness to the celebration. Per tradition, Albanian grandmothers begin preparing the dough long before the long-awaited day and maintain that a piece of baklava should be eaten by all in order to have a lucky year ahead.
It is common to see women carrying large pans with the freshly-prepared baklava to a nearby bakery. This is one of a few old practices that have withstood the test of time. “My oven is not big enough. The bakery will take care of this,” said Valentina Karaj, 65, who has prepared her own baklava every year since her marriage 36 years ago.
When asked why baklava plays such an important role in the New Year’s celebrations, she simply replies “We have always done it this way. I cannot imagine New Year’s Day without baklava. It fills my house and I feel good when I serve this dessert to the guests because it honours me.”
Albanian desserts differ by region but baklava is available everywhere, in every corner of country. It is part of the tradition that women brag about who has created the most delicious and impressive baklava.
In addition, baklava has spiritual connotations in the country. People say that it brings good luck and unites people. Generally speaking, Albanian families come together on New Year’s Day as children and other family members who may live farther away join them. Due to the large number of those present, large pans of baklava are prepared. They can contain as many as 80-90 layers of dough rolled out flat.
Once rolled out, the layers of dough are put out to dry. Usually the men in the family will take care of cracking and grinding the nuts, making the preparation of the baklava a family affair.