I live in a country that in 1945, the Agrarian Reform Law under communism meant that large pieces of property owned by religious groups were nationalized, along with estates of monasteries and dioceses. Many believers, and many priests were arrested, tortured and executed. In 1949, a new decree required that all religious activities be sanctioned by the communist state alone.
Then in 1967, Albania was declared to be the first "completely atheistic" country in the world, by Enver Hoxha. Hundreds of mosques and dozens of Islamic libraries containing priceless manuscripts were destroyed. Churches were not spared either, and many were converted into cultural centers for young people. The new law banned all "fascist, religious warmongerish, antisocialist activity and propaganda" Preaching religion carried a three to ten years prison sentance. Nontheless, many Albanians continues to practice their beliefs secretly.
The People's republic was dissolved in 1991-1992, and the freedom to practice religion was restored. Many missionaries responded to the opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to Albania.
Look at the "Albanian National Holiday" schedule for 2015. There are 2 national Easter Holidays...!
April 3…Good Friday…Observance
April 4…Holy Saturday…Observance
April 5…Easter Sunday…National Holiday
April 6… Easter Monday…Observance
April 10…Good Friday (Orthodox)…Observance
April 11…Easter Saturday (Orthodox)…Observance
April 12…Easter Sunday (Orthodox…Observance
April 13…Easter Monday (Orthodox)…National Holiday
December 24…Christmas Eve…Observance
December 25…Christmas Day…National Holiday
Vendors in the market where I shop...have all told me, "Gezuar Krishtlindja", which literally means, "Happy Christ's Birth."
Tirana is covered in lights, giant Christmas trees, giant Santa Clauses. Of course they are referred to as "New Years Tree" and "Father New Year"...but it sure feels like Christmas to me.
The poinsettia in Albanian is called the "Christmas flower".
And I live in a country where you hear the mosques calling to prayer, a country where prison time was the cost for "preaching"...and I come from a country that is perceived by "Albanian nationals" as a Christian nation.
Merry Christmas from a country that knows what it means to be put in prison for sharing your faith...any faith.