Last year on New Year's Eve, The Albanian and I were in Lausanne, Switzerland visiting his sister's family. It was the first time he'd seen his sister since he came to the US four years ago, and the first time he'd ever met her children. Though she's only 24, The Albanian's sister - we'll call her Besjana - carries the weight of a small Albanian world on her shoulders. She welcomed me into her home and family unconditionally, and she treated me like a younger sister despite the fact that I'm three years older.
That night, we ate like I had never eaten before. In Kosovo, the New Year's Eve tradition is basically to stuff yourself until you can't move. Besjana cooked and served course after course, and just when I thought she couldn't possibly squeeze another tableful of food out of her little kitchen, she'd clear all of the dishes and lay out a set of new ones, each piled high with chocolate, smoked meat, salad, cheese, or some such other delightful and sickening treat.
The first course was Raclette - a traditional Swiss dish of melted cheese (above and below) over potatoes and vegetables.
After the Raclette, this spread appeared. Besjana's daughter danced to an Albanian concert on TV:
A few more courses later, this - roasted chicken, salad with tuna and cheese, smoked meat slices, and wine - made its way into the living room just before midnight.
While my family has never been big on New Year's, The Albanian's truly celebrates the joy and excitement of a fresh year ahead, and all that they have to be thankful for from the year that just came to a close. His mother and brother cried last night over the phone when he called them around 6pm New York time to wish them a "Gëzuar Vitin e Ri!" Then they threw a few grenades into the air and The Albanian wistfully listened to them explode thousands of miles away.
Pronunciation: Gzoo-are veetin ee ree!