The top 5 Georgian traditions you’ve probably never heard of
Traditions can have both a positive and negative impact on society. They can help society advance, or they can be a burden to society. Traditions also encourage greater understanding of the historical background and cultural development of a country.
Georgians have been able to maintain long established traditions, which have seen little change.
Let’s find out more about these traditions.
Georgian traditional clothes
Traditional dress speaks volumes about a country.
The traditional hat in the Khevsureti region has a cross, which emphasizes the faith of the people living there.
An example of men’s traditional clothing is a style of jacket called the Chokha. For many, it symbolizes the country’s proud past.
A Chokha is made of wool. It has long sleeves and it must have a belt that holds a stiletto. It has bandoliers on both sides of the chest, with decorations in place of bullets.
Traditional women’s clothing in Georgia is very sophisticated, featuring a long dress with long sleeves and a belt. The belt is so long it almost reaches the floor!
Nowadays some people wear traditional clothes at weddings and official ceremonies as a symbol of national pride. On May 18, Georgia celebrates National Clothing Day.
Georgian dance is known for its originality. Each dance presents the characteristics of the region from which it originates and as such the dances from the mountainous regions differ from those of the valleys.
The dances showcase the natural gracefulness and beauty of Georgian women and the courage, grace, and respectfulness of Georgian men.
The Kartuli is a very romantic dance performed by a couple. The dance expresses gallantry between Georgian men and women. In this dance, the man walks a fine line, as he must not touch the woman, even with his coat. They look at each other as if they have been in love for centuries. His arms are at chest height and his feet move quickly in short steps. The eyes of the woman are cast down, and she glides like a swan.
In almost every dance the male dancers perform spectacular leaps and spins. Unlike any other dancers in the world, they dance on their toes without the aid of Cuban-heeled shoes.
Strength of faith
In Georgia, Christianity was established in the 4th century.
Many people were inspired by the death of martyrs, strengthening their faith in Jesus Christ. Much of the world remains oblivious to an amazing example of self-sacrifice, when 100,000 people accepted the wreath of martyrdom. The citizens of Tbilisi refused to obey Jalal ad-Din, who ordered them to step on the icons put on the bridge. Men and children of all ages were executed.
The people of Georgia have a deep sense of religion ingrained in them. This is apparent when you visit the country and notice the abundance of churches and monasteries.
Despite the huge influence of Christianity in Georgia, people are very tolerant and respectful towards other religions.
I recommend that you visit the Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi, which is the third tallest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in the world.
The mekvle (from “kvali” -footprint) is the first person to enter the home on New Year’s Day.
Some people believe that the Mekvle brings either good or bad luck. Many households are superstitious about this, and carefully select who will enter the house first.
The “first-footer” can be a member of the household, but they must not be in the house when the clock strikes midnight, in order qualify.
Within a household, children are preferred to be the ‘first-footers’.
The ‘first-foot’ usually brings candy and throws it throughout every room. It is also common to give sweets to every member of the family personally, symbolically transferring good luck to each one.
Chichilaki (a traditional Christmas tree)
The Chichilaki is a traditional Georgian Christmas tree, made from dried hazelnuts. These pale-colored ornaments differ in height from 20 cm to 3 meters.
The Chichilaki has long been an inseparable part of New Year and Christmas in Western Georgia.
Still, the Chichilaki remains very popular. Every year people decorate it with ornaments, candies and pieces of small fruit.
Chichilakis are ceremoniously burned the day before Epiphany, on 19 January.