How New Year and Christmas are celebrated in Georgia
New Year and Christmas are special celebrations in Georgia that are marked with great preparation and equal enthusiasm.
First New Year is celebrated in Georgia on December 31st and then it is followed by Christmas that is marked on January 7th. The preparation process for the New Year starts around 2 weeks earlier, the city is decorated and illuminated with Christmas lights, special fairs are organized at various places in the cities, while citizens flock to the shopping centers and market to buy presents for the loved ones and get all the necessary products to lay the New Year table in accordance to the traditions.
As a rule, family members gather around the supra (Georgian feast table) and at 12 o’clock meet the New Year together. Afterwards people go out, meet their friends and continue to celebrate all night long. At the New Year table special Georgian dishes are prepared that are usually consumed only at this occasion. Apart from various vegetable dishes and herb appetizers like pkhali (spinach dip) and nigvziani badrijani (eggplant with walnuts) the main dishes that are prepared in every household are satsivi (turkey or chicken in walnut sauce) and gozinaki (New Year candy prepared with walnuts and honey only for this occasion once a year).
Gozinaki plays central role at the table, since it is the symbol of abundance and fertility. Apart from ordinary Christmas tree that is widespread in whole world, Chichilaki, Georgian version of Christmas tree must be present in every household too. It is traditional Christmas tree made from dried hazelnut or walnut branches.
Chichilaki symbolizes the tree of life and it is usually decorated with sweets, candies, dried fruit and churchkhela, Georgian candy made with grape juice and walnuts, in order to bring luck, success and fertility. As a rule chichilaki must be burnt on the day before the Georgian Orthodox Epiphany on 19 January to mark the end of the previous year’s troubles.
Georgians stand out for following their traditions and old customs. One of the most widespread and chief one is the tradition of so called Mekvle. Even though it is quite old, it is still observed in each family. Mekve is the person who first enters your house on the New Year’s eve. It is believed that the first guest of your house can bring luck, happiness, abundance and success to the family for the next year. Subsequently, Mekvle is usually selected in advance and it is a close person of the host family, yet over the recent years the tradition has transformed and now anyone is welcome to step over the threshold first. Mekvle must bring sweets or some candies when paying a visit to one’s family. This gesture means that the Mekvle wishes all the best the host family.
As a rule, New Year and Christmas celebrations last for several days. On the 2nd of January Bedoba is marked. Bedi means luck in Georgian language and Bedoba stands for the day of luck. It is considered the way to spend entire day, will determine your whole year, so people try to stay positive and spend this day in a friendly environment surrounded by close and beloved people.
As for the Christmas, on January 6, at night, parishioners and religious people go to the churches where special liturgy is held. After 40-day fast, parishioners receive the sacrament and congratulate each other on the birth of Christ. Special services are hold in all churches throughout Georgia, but those who don’t manage to meet Christmas at the church, usually light candles on the window pins. On January 7 th people celebrate Christmas by laying Georgian feast table supra and preparing various dishes. Since the celebration marks the end of the fast people enjoy meat dishes, especially satsivi and fried piglet.
On January 14th Old New Year is marked in the country, according to the old calendar, yet it is not as widely celebrated as the letter ones.