From antiquity to modern times, the story of the Albanian population is one wrought with hardships and obstacles, invasions and occupations, patriotism and mass migrations. While Albanian people have had to draw courage from legends, epic songs, and fairy tales they have also had to learn to experience joy and extract pleasure from life, as the tradition of telling and re-telling jokes, called barcaleta, testifies.
Indeed, Albanians are pleasure-seekers! Their love of music and dance is reflected in the centuries-old traditions of iso-polyphonic music in the southern region and in the intricate folk dances called valle, which help every wedding celebration continue until the wee hours of the morning. Their love of beauty, in the perfectly crafted traditional costumes.
Albanians are also famous for keeping their word, which can be attributed to the tradition of besa, a promise of loyalty to one’s compatriots or land. National legends depict variations on besa, such as a mother’s sacrificial love for her children, a brother’s struggle to save his sister, a young maiden’s determination to keep her honor, among others, while epic songs similarly celebrate strength and courage and are dedicated to national heroes such as Skanderbeg.
This population’s sense of humor is what keeps them going, however. To this day, Albanians continue telling jokes and short stories, involving an old character named Nastradin, which have made generations of Albanians find some much needed comic relief!