What you should know about the Georgian Tamada
Have you heard anything about the Georgian toastmaster, Tamada?
If not, it must mean that you haven’t been to Georgia yet. There is no way you can be in Georgia and not to hear anything about ‘Tamada’, it means a great deal to Georgians.
A ‘Supra’, a traditional Georgian feast which is very common in Georgia, has no equivalent around the world. Its history and traditions are completely unique. The culture of toasting is known around the world, but Georgia is different. Every Supra should have its own Tamada. A Tamada is a toastmaster and it’s his job to make toasts throughout the evening.
It’s almost forbidden not to listen to the Tamada, he is considered to be the most honorable member of a traditional Georgian supra. The ideal Tamada should be well educated, intelligent, sharp-witted, polite, honorable, sociable, have a good sense of humor, have a musical ability, be a lover of poetry, be romantic, deeply nostalgic, eloquent, and last but not least, a good drinker.
The requirements are quite rigorous, wouldn’t you agree?
A Tamada must have extensive knowledge of Georgia’s history and traditions. His main role is to lead the Supra and make a series of toasts on variety of topics, so it’s a big responsibility. Being boring and not listening to guests are some of the worst crimes a Tamada can commit. Being able to entertain the guests, introduce each toast in a detailed manner, tell interesting stories and make the Supra as active as possible for as long as possible shows that the Tamada really knows what he’s doing.
A toast can only be proposed by the Tamada. Toasts have their own rules too, one of them being that all men should stand up and drink wine in silence. Each toast is devoted to a different theme. The first few follow a prescribed order, before they become more specific to the guests and circumstances of the supra. Toasts are typically given to God (the first toast of the feast), peace, Georgia, family, friendship and so on. Sometimes the Tamada might say “Alaverdi” to selected participants, which means that they should elaborate on the toast being made by the Tamada. In many cases however, the guests vie to say something more emotional and different than the previous speaker, and the whole process grows into a sort of oratory contest. Saying something sincerely is the best way to win the contest.
Remember, while the Tamada toasts, the other guests raise their glasses, but do not drink. After the Tamada has spoken the toast continues.
Don’t forget to ask permission before leaving the Supra, it is disrespectful to do so without asking. When you get the permission to leave, the Tamada may make a toast to you before leaving so that you’ll leave Supra with great respect and the best wishes of all the guests. It’s a really good experience to attend a Georgian Supra, you’ll see real Georgian tradition, full of history and emotions. You’ll love saying “Gaumarjos!” and tasting unique Georgian wine and food. It will make you feel like you are a Georgian.
Family Feast Artist: Niko Pirosmani, 1907