To be a good tamada, you should be in possession of several skills and qualities, including being good with words, speaking clearly and openly, and delivering each toast with originality and humour. Toasts should also be short and to the point. A tamada should know the traditional way in which a toast is given, or if spontaneity is appropriate, he should know when to say what.
A good tamada should also be sensitive enough to feel the mood of the table and maintain a pleasant atmosphere throughout the dinner. He should also expertly control how much alcohol is consumed by decreasing or increasing the number of toasts. Usually, many more toasts are given at the beginning of the meal, and then they slow down as the night goes on.
It goes without saying that one of the primary qualities of being a tamada is to be a good drinker. He is expected to empty each glass of wine on each toast, but it’s disgraceful for a tamada to become drunk.
If the supra is small and takes place in someone’s house with only a few guests, the head of the household is the tamada. However, at massive festivities and feasts like weddings, birthdays, christenings, etc., the family chooses a tamada in advance. At friends’ gatherings, people at the table decide a tamada right on the spot.
The choice depends on a variety of factors, but someone who enjoys the role and is good at it is chosen often. Youngsters usually rotate the responsibility and bend the rules.
During massive festivities, the head of the family, who chose the tamada, stands and introduces the ‘man of the evening’ by proposing the toast. Everyone follows him and toasts the tamada. From that point on, the tamada becomes the leader of the table.
At a mid-size supra, when someone is chosen on the spot, the individual can refuse the position; but someone else will need to take his place.
1. Once chosen to be a tamada, make a toast to God. Georgia is a religious nation, so the first toast must be to God.
2. Drink to the peace. Georgians have been through many wars and invasions, and for them, peace is one of the most important aspects of everyday life.
3. Identify the reason for gathering. If it’s a birthday celebration, congratulate the person; wish them good luck, prosperity and well being. If it’s a wedding, toast to the bright future of the newlyweds. If it’s a christening, toast to the newborn.
4. Toast to the nation. Georgian’s are proud of their country and what they have accomplished over the centuries. Praise the country and highlight how beautiful Georgia is.
5. Remember the dead. Stand up and drink to an ancestor or anyone who could not be at the table due to a recent passing. This is a very respectful thing to do.
6. Drink to a new life. After remembering those who have died, the tamada should propose a toast to a ‘new life’, meaning any children. The person with the youngest child is given the first toast, then the next oldest child, so on and so forth.
7. Toast separately to the hosts, elderly, siblings, women and relatives.
8. Toast to friendship. Georgians honor their friendship, and each member may have dozens of friends.
9. Toast to love, then follow that with a salute to memories and moments shared between individuals at the table.
10. The final toasts should be for the evening, the beginning of new friendships, relationships and reasons for future gatherings.