Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Finally Festive??

Well it seems I have maligned Albania. It does have festive cheer, it is just UN-fashionably late, by Western standards anyway. Around the 7th Dec suddenly Christmas trees appeared in shops, the local markets are awash with chinese fairy lights, huge gaudy baubles, a rainbow dazzle of tinsels, a santa outfit for every size (babe to adult) including models with plaits attached to hats, Father Christmas 'skirts' and so on.

And then there are lights everywhere. 4 & 5 storey buildings have lights dripping the full length of them. Strung across the roads are very heavy wire stars which are suspended from heavily sagging cables. They swing so low over the main road through Tirana that I always choose my 'lane' carefully. And should white van man (yes you get them in Albania too) or a delivery lorry choose the wrong lane, on this broad boulevard, they will find themselves delivering more than barrels of beer or tins of paint, as the drooping Stars of David are snagged along in their wake.

I have to confess to a huge dose of 'Bah Humbug' when I see all these festive lights. Albania cannot supply power to all its citizens. The poor voiceless areas suffer most. If you live near an embassy or in the student area you don't get ANY power cuts. EVER. They don't want students rioting or protesting. Embassies have an agreement with the government not to have their 'business' interrupted by power cuts. The rest of us have power cuts. I am weary of them. The power is turned off to save it & eek it out. The antiquated infrastructure can't cope with the burgeoning demands.

But clearly Albania wants to appear fully 'developed' and Western. The way to do this? Put up Christmas lights as the ultimate symbol of superfluity, affluence & frivolity (not to mention rank disregard for energy saving, at least not in the sense I understand it).

We don't have enough electricity to go round, but hey we can still light our buildings all night with ridiculous quantities of fairy lights as it's Christmas. Even though we don't actually celebrate Christmas here.....but let's have the lights anyway.

We can always turn them out in the New Year..... in the whole country. In fact there's a joke along those lines isn't there? Not quite so funny when you're living it.

I have also discovered this year (I'm told this is quite new) you can buy a FROZEN turkey, I have one. I did NOT have to murder it for my Christmas dinner, though I have seen several hapless birds today, still alive, being carried (3 at a time) by their feet to their fate. I have even found wrapping paper, a polystyrene tray with 5 slightly tired looking sprouts, a wreath for the door. Hooray. So apologies Albania.

And we also went to a nativity play on Sunday. This was quite unusual I must admit. Firstly it was performed by adults, which I have never seen before. Secondly it featured the devil. You may well be racking your brains at this point to remember at which point the devil appears in the Christmas story. Or when your Little Darling donned a pair of horns to play Lucifer in the primary school nativity. Well this group decided to show the fight between good & evil represented by white angels & dark angels, endeavouring to stop the Wise Men getting to Jesus. Complete with very loud music.

Trouble was they did this with a man wearing a rubber devil mask, in a hooded black coat, little horns & carrying a trident. He was very 'realistic'. The devil then proceeded to leap down the central aisle where he almost knocked over a toddler standing gaping, in sort of suspended horror, in the middle of it. She screamed, & fell over in her haste to get back to her mother, and would not stop screaming for the rest of the scene (which was quite long). My daughter was covering her eyes, and saying: "Don't let him near me mummy", as I was seated right by the aisle. She then started to claw her way over to her dad 3 seats along as the devil roamed up the central aisle. He then set off another child too. The place was in minor uproar.

I dont think I have ever been to a Nativity play where quite so many were reduced to tears. And it wasn't the parents for once.

This Christmas has been quite an education.


Potty Mummy said...

Oh, My. God. That's all. Just, Oh. My. God.

Christopher said...

We wish you a truly blessed Christmas, with our without the trimmings.

Iota said...

I would be pretty annoyed by the festive lights if I didn't have reliable electricity myself.

The nativity play sounds like an old-fashioned mystery play. Maybe.

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Was that in reference to the nativity play or the wanton abuse of precious electricity PM??!

Thnx Christopher, I hope it will be.

Iota,it was certainly a mystery to me, but hadn't thought of that, a Mystery Play. Hmm. It was just a Christmas service in one of the 2 international churches, so one wd expect something a tad more child-friendly. I know there's the Herod element etc, but still.... My mother-in-law wondered if it was just a violent Balkan interpretation of the Nativity, given Albania's violent history and the ongoing revenge culture. I'm going to write a post about that one day.

Grit said...

thank you, plt, for showing me a glimpse of albania in which i can be bemused and reassured all at the same time. best wishes for a bright and lovely 2009!