Cuttino's Georgian Life

A journal of my Peace Corps service in the Republic of Georgia, 2006-2008.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

It's Christmas time again, and again, and...

Call me Scrooge, but I'm about ready for the holiday season to be over. Yes, its still going on, long after you all in American have taken out the Christmas tree and put the decorations back in the attic. Because the Orthodox Church continues to use the Julian calendar, many of the religious holidays are about two weeks after their Western equivalents. As I found out last Sunday, Georgian Christmas is much more religious than our American holiday. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the Orthodox Georgians hold an Advent fast--no meat, eggs or dairy. At midnight on Christmas Eve, the fast is lifted and (of course) the supras begin. My family and I had a huge supra; Dato (my Gori host father) brought out the best wine. Rather than fight the crowds at the midnight mass in Gori's cathedral, we settled instead to watch the coverage from Tbilisi. Aside from the obligatory chanting and prayers, the service involved a huge procession of Georgian flags through the streets of Tbilisi. The next day, I saw a similar one in Gori.

On Christmas Day, Dato and I went to his home village of Ateni for what I thought would be a Christmas celebration. In reality, it was a half Christmas-half funeral supra. It was held in the home of the deceased; all the furniture had been moved and the family brought in long tables. As is the case with most of the formal supras I've been to, the feast was men-only and all the women of the town did the cooking and the serving. Large, formal supras are difficult for foreigners and funeral supras are especially bad. This is because they last for hours and you have no viable excuse not to participate in the toasting. You can't really say: "No, I will not drink the the memory of your beloved aunt." Instead, you have to master the delicate art of faking your way through toasts--sipping and dumping when nobody is looking, discretely trading full glasses for empty glasses. And on this particular day, I failed the test miserably. Perhaps I got carried away by the yuletide spirit or misjudged the potency of the wine, but I don't remember much after about 4 o'clock that afternoon. Fortunately, Dato was ready to leave by the time I started wandering through the chicken coop. Next year, I'll be more careful.

The holidays aren't over yet! You can't have a second Christmas without a second New Years (January 13), and Epiphany (January 19) is right around the corner! Maybe, maybe, the Christmas trees will be taken down by February.


  • At 3:08 AM, Blogger Michael said…

    it doesnt sound that different from 'the holiday season' in north carolina, cuttino. except that ours starts in october, and we don't even pretend that it has anything to do with religion, right?


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