The Head of the Lamb – Albania

This is the third post about a recent trip to Albania as a bridesmaid in an Albanian/American wedding.

The roof caught on fire last night from the professional-grade fireworks being set off by children. These were not your average backyard fireworks; they were as some say, “legit”. Early in the evening the drinking and dancing were interrupted by shouting as all the men at the party ran out of the party and up the gravel driveway of the neighboring house. Us women folk and children ran out into the unpaved street to see what was going on. Looking up we could see small flames, smoke, and an orange-ish glow emanating from the roof of the groom’s brother’s house next door. At first I heard frantic whispers that someone was on fire, but thankfully it was not a person, but just the roof of the house. The hoard of Albanian and American men working together without the benefit of understanding each others’ languages quickly beat and smothered the fire into submission. I tried to tell the British priest that the song about “The Roof, The Roof, The Roof is on Fie-yah” was actually true in this case, but I’m not sure that he recognized the song.

This being the first official night of the pre-wedding celebrations there were enough chairs for about 50 people and enough food for 100. After the unprepared foreigners filled up on the delicious roast vegetables, raw salad, sausage, and traditional Kosovar feta, the next course was presented to us; an entire roast lamb. Whole on the bread tray fresh from the oven (presumably in a nearby restaurant as no household oven I know could fit an entire lamb). The lamb was what can only be described as succulent. I was seated next to the priest who is going to officiate at the wedding ceremony and he was given the head of the lamb, split in two – its one eye staring up as us. Needless to say we traded that plate for one of unidentifiable parts and enjoyed our meal all the more for it. I’ve never been a fan of my food staring at me while I’m eating.

It was a double celebration of sorts, the first night of the pre-wedding festivities as well as the groom’s birthday. On the area cleared for the dance floor he was presented with a square cake large enough to feed dozens of people and leftovers; Albanian script filled the top. Everyone sang Happy Birthday to him in both languages and then he hugged every person individually with tears in his eyes and Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” blasting. Thinking about how hard it would be for anyone, much less this tight-knit family to be separated for 10 straight years while the groom was obtaining residency in the UK brought a tear to my drunken eye as well, or it could have been Celine Dion.

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