Georgia is a transcontinental country found at the intersection of West Asia and Eastern Europe. The country is known to be of diverse cultures that blend both European and Asian cultures. The country is part of the Caucasus that is bounded by Russia to the north, the Black Sea to the west, Armenia to the south, Turkey to the southwest, and Azerbaijan to the southeast. Georgia is unique because of the amazing landscape, culture, diversity, and local traditions that you are going to find in the region during the Christmas holidays.
The capital of the country is Tbilisi and it is home to a large population of the country. The cultural customs and traditions that are observed in the region vary especially during the Christmas period. It is important to understand this diversity as you intend to visit this unique nation.
In the modern era, many people usually use the Gregorian calendar. This is important because it set the date for Christmas to be the 25th of December each year. However, in some parts of the world, you will find that there are people who use the Julian calendar which was proposed by Julius Caesar and it put the Christmas date to January 6th.
This is mostly observed by the Orthodox Christians. It is essential that when you are traveling to Georgia that you are aware of the traditions to ensure the best experience possible.
If you plan to spend your Christmas in West Asia and Southeastern Europe then Georgia is the perfect country for you. Georgians are known to celebrate their Christmas in different ways than other parts of the globe. We will help shed some insights into the Christmas traditions of Georgia.
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Christmas traditions and customs in Georgia
There are various Christmas traditions that you can experience during the trip to Georgia. The most important aspect that you can find in the region is that a majority of the people usually follow Orthodox traditions. Therefore they put more emphasis on January 7th as their day for celebrations.
P.S. If you are traveling around Europe during the holiday season, make sure to check out Christmas in the following countries:
Let’s check out how the people from Georgia celebrate the various festivities surrounding Christmas Day!
This is not a Christmas celebration but it is more common in Georgia. It is considered a day of destiny around the country and you will find people from one part of the country celebrating it. The success of the day will largely determine how your next year will be.
During this day the Georgians usually bake and eat lobiani. This is a pastry that is unique to the country as they go through the events of the past year, hope, and prepare for a successful upcoming year.
The great martyr Barbara lived in the region until the end of the 3rd century and during this period there is a common legend told in the country. According to this legend, the daughter of the pagan kept her guarded in a tower to protect her from people and harm.
However, the daughter professed Christianity and refused to be married, contrary to her father’s wishes. The father became enraged and he ordered the daughter to undergo torture and beheading. However, during this period there are many miracles that happened. Her wounds miraculously healed and while the father was going home, he was struck by lightning and his body was consumed by the fire.
Christmas Day in Georgia
Christmas Day in Georgia is unique because they do not celebrate it like other parts of the world. The people in the country usually celebrate Orthodox Christmas. In this period, there are fewer celebrations, however, in areas where there are Christians, you will find them celebrating.
Some of the common places that you are going to find people celebrating Christmas in Georgia are in the major cities across the country such as Tbilisi where there are a lot of foreigners.
However, in most parts of the country, you will find that banks, restaurants, and stores are open as usual. Nevertheless, if you want to feel the Christmas spirit then there are various places that will offer these services to you and you can find them across the country.
One of the most interesting concepts and the things that you will find in the streets of Georgia is a Christmas tree-shaped delicacy that is made from walnut branches or dried hazel nut.
They vary, ranging from 30 centimeters to 3 meters. The branches are usually shaved to resemble a coniferous tree and it is a symbol of hope and life for Georgians. The tree is decorated with apples, berries, berries, and various sweets.
New Year’s Eve
The Christmas spirit usually kicks in on Christmas Eve and the New Year in Georgia. The people in the country usually give gifts during this year and depending on the region that you are going to visit it will vary on the experience that you will find.
There is a lot of drinking and feasting during this period and you will find people drinking Georgian wine. It is a common tradition that people wish each other a happy new year as the clock countdown runs down.
During this time, you will see the sky ablaze with fireworks from different parts of the country. You will find that many of the fireworks are usually not planned. However, the people around the state usually shoot fireworks into the sky.
Once the New Year tradition is offered there is another common tradition that is called Mekvleoba. It is about the first person who will enter the house in the new year. The person who usually enters the house during this period is called mkvle. Generally, it translates to someone who leaves the trail.
According to the traditions in the country, the person usually leaves sweets, candies, and other gifts for the children. The sweets are believed to represent happiness, youthfulness, and prosperity and the wishes are usually to the family for the new year. It is believed that the angel steps inside the house and brings blessings to the family which makes the tradition exceptional.
It is important to note that people in Georgia do not believe in Santa Claus, however, they believe in Father Frost. Tovlis Babua who is also commonly called Snow Father is similar to Santa and it is a mythical creature in Georgia.
On the eve of Christmas, they come from the mountain to the houses to give the children gifts and toys. According to Georgian traditions, the Tovlis Babua usually lives in Svaneti which is a mountainous region in the northwestern part of the country and it is one of the highest settlements in Europe.
Father Frost is believed to be a kind old man with a long white beard. However, he doesn’t have his white and red colors as it is common for Santa Claus in different parts of the world. Father Frost is known to visit various shopping malls around the country. When you are visiting Georgia during the Christmas period, you will see Father Frost’s motives all over.
The New Year celebration tradition in the country usually lasts for two days and the celebrations are taken very seriously. The second day of January is called Bedoba and during this period you are going to find people celebrating around the country.
It is believed that depending on how you spend the day will determine how the rest of the year will be in the region. Georgians will try to be as happy as they can during this period and there is no negativity during this period.
It is a perfect day to eat some of the common traditional dishes and wine in the region. The day is often dedicated to family and friends.
Orthodox Christmas Eve in Georgia
The Orthodox Christmas Eve is often celebrated on the 6th of January. During this period the Georgians are more religious. They take the holiday as an important one for them because it is Christmas. During Christmas Eve the Georgians usually light their candles and place them on the windows before midnight.
The lights play a significant role in the Christmas tradition as it is a guide for Mary and Joseph to find their way to the shelter. It is important to note that on Christmas Eve there is a church service.
If you are visiting Georgia for the first time then you should participate in the service because it is the welcoming of the spirit of Christmas. You will find that the major cities usually host very huge masses in the cathedrals in the country.
The common place where you will find many people celebrating the holiday is the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi. Here, the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church usually leads the service.
The 7th of January is the most important day in Georgia. That day, you can see some of the most unique parades in the country. The Alilo parade is the most common parade that you will find in Georgia. The parade usually happens across the whole country. If you want to participate in the tradition then you should visit Georgia during this period because you will experience some of the most exceptional events here.
The people who participate in this parade often carry religious icons. Depending on the region that you visit you will see crosses, Georgian flags, and other religious materials. You will see people singing, reciting poems, and dancing. While the procession moves from one street to another it is a common phenomenon for people to give donations and gifts. Once the parade is over, they visit their family members and you will find Christmas candles lit on their windows as a sign of the birth of Jesus Christ.
It is important to note that Alilo happens only with a minimum of three people who sing the songs actively. If the singers go to the homes the host will present the singers with an egg. The egg plays an important role because it is believed to be a symbol of fertility and life.
Orthodox New Year in Georgia
The reason the New Year falls on the 14th of January is because the people in the country usually follow the Julian calendar. However, it is important to understand that the day is not a public holiday as it is common in different parts of the world.
However, the people in the region celebrate the holiday with some gusto as they are having the best time. Some of the common dishes that people enjoy during the New Year include:
- cheese-filled bread
- pork skewers
Orthodox Epiphany in Georgia
The Orthodox Epiphany usually occurs on January 19th. It is a common practice for people to celebrate the holiday differently depending on the region of Georgia. This is a day that is often celebrated to commemorate the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan river.
The people in the country usually go to church and they receive water blessing from the church. They can take the water as well to home where they can sprinkle it on their house. They can also drink it as a sign of new year success and tradition. It is believed that water also helps people to overcome illnesses among others.
Christmas food and drinks in Georgia
In Georgia, there are different traditional foods that you can enjoy during your visit. Depending on the location that you visit, you will find different foods and drinks.
Guruli or what is a common Christmas pie in the country is some sort of khachapuri. The pie does not have only cheese. It usually has various ingredients depending on the region of Georgia, and it can have hard-boiled eggs too.
The guruli is often served in most parts of western Georgia. It is a common delicacy during Christmas Eve and Christmas. People usually prepare these dishes before the time reaches twelve o’clock. The recipe is simple yet it is based on dough and yeast as well as cheese.