Christmas in Georgia – as well as throughout the Christian world – is one of the most important and revered holidays of the year. Although in this country, perhaps, more than in any other, many original, interesting and beautiful traditions of celebrating Christmas have been noticed.
And the reason is obvious: Georgia is a real Klondike of original Georgian nationalities, each with its own original and beautiful customs. Therefore, the mysterious feast of the Nativity of Christ, which is celebrated in Georgia on the night of January 7, dazzles on this multi ethnic land with an enviable variety of traditions.
“Shoba” (Christmas in Georgian) is even called differently in different regions of Georgia.
In Samegrelo, for example, this holiday is called “The Evening of Christ”, in Racha and Lower Svaneti – “Chantloba”, in Upper Svaneti – “Shobi” (Christmas), in Kartli – “Christ Christmas Eve”, and in Mtiuleti – “Thiloba “(” Time Nuts “). Gurians, called Christmas – “Kalanda”.
Christmas tradition “Alilo”
On the eve of the night, a solemn service begins in all the churches of Georgia. Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia Ilya II will hold a festive liturgy in the Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedral. And in the morning the Christmas service turns into something resembling a carnival procession. Here this event is called “Alilo” – from the Hebrew word “Hallelujah,” that is, praising God. This is a beautiful parade in honor of the birth of baby Jesus, in which the entire city participates. In Georgia, the tradition of “Alilo” has existed since time immemorial.
Previously, during this Christmas procession, a group of men went around the house with the song “Alilo” and congratulated everyone on Christmas. The festive procession was headed by Makharobeli (“messenger of joy” – Georgian). The hostesses greeted him on the threshold and presented him with fruits, sweets, bread, eggs. After centuries, the role of men gradually passed on to children. Today they march in front of the procession, well-dressed and with wreaths on their heads, symbolizing angels. They are followed by young people with shepherd’s staff in their hands, in Svan fluffy hats and wearing sheep’s clothing. They personify the shepherds who came to the born Savior. After all, according to the Gospel, they were the first to know about the birth of God’s son and spread the good news to people.
Other participants “Alilo” – in white praschenitsy with red crosses – carry icons, banners and lamps. All those participating in the procession sing a special hymn – “Alilo”, which is performed exclusively on this holiday. Ahead of the procession follows an arba on oxen, and in it are large baskets that collect donations for the needy, for orphanages and shelters – sweets, fruit, toys. Around the crowd of people in dresses and carol costumes. People sing, dance and play musical instruments. Anyone can join the festive procession “Alilo”. This is truly an unforgettable and impressive sight!
As for gastronomic delights, at Christmas a fantastic variety of dishes awaits guests and residents of Georgia, since different dishes are prepared for this holiday in different parts of the country.
In Imereti, Guria and Samegrelo – at Christmas they cook Satsivi, boil Elarji – corn porridge with sulugun, make Gozinaki (roasted nuts in honey) and, of course, a pig with adzhika.
In the western Georgia, special attention is paid to the pledge of sweet life – delicacies. Among them are especially popular honey, various nuts and dried fruits. Besides them, the Christmas table here is never complete without a pumpkin in a sweet syrup.
In Kakheti for Christmas they love to bake sweet pies – Kada. Previously, at Christmas, they especially liked to cook pork legs and head, as well as kebabs and Mujuji (Georgian pork jelly).
In Pshavi and Khevsureti it is impossible to imagine Christmas without Khinkali. Moreover, on Christmas holidays in Khevsureti it is customary to drive Georgian chacha and brew beer.
Across Georgia, hostesses bake Kverebi festive pies in the form of Christmas characters. In Kartli, such holiday cakes are distributed at Christmas not only to family members, but also to livestock and animals.
In Svaneti, they do not meet Christmas without slaughtering a pig. On the Christmas table there should be such dishes as Kubdari (meat pies), Khachapuri, Pkhlovani (pkhali pies), and Petvra – this is a kind of khachapuri, in which earlier, by the way, chopped cannabis seeds were added along with other ingredients. Today, this pleasure replaces millet!
In Guria, Christmas cakes are baked with cheese and coarsely chopped boiled eggs – Guruli. And in Adzharia, baklava and Achma (a type of multi-layered khachapuri) are considered traditional Christmas dishes.
But despite the many traditions of their own originality, all Georgian nationalities are particularly keen on the Christmas holiday.
An example of this is a rather beautiful custom: on Christmas Eve, in every Georgian house, a candle from the church lights up on the window. This is done so that the light of its burning was visible from the street to all passersby. This tradition is intended to recall the distant biblical events, when Joseph and Mary, wandering, sought shelter for the birth of their son. More than two millennia have passed since then, and hundreds of little lights still flicker in Georgia on that night as a sign of hope that the Mother of God will bestow grace on the house.
At Christmas, all believers in Georgia remember the wonders of that memorable night, lit by the blessed light of the Bethlehem star. Georgia has its own specific reason for mentioning Bethlehem: it was in this ancient city that the patron saint of Georgia was brought up – the Holy Great Martyr George. So no matter what side you take it, but the biblical story of the birth of Christ to the Georgians is very close.