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Georgia’s culture has grown along with the country’s long history, giving it unique customs and traditions. While some of those habits have been long forgotten, there are still a couple left that Georgians cherish and transfer from generation to generation. Here are seven things you need to know about Georgian culture.
Over the years Georgia has developed a reputation for being a friendly nation. There’s even a monument, Mother of Georgia, dedicated to hospitality and friendship that overlooks the capital, Tbilisi.
Here, the guest is considered a gift from God, therefore locals treat all visitors with respect and with as much sensitivity as possible. When a person, be it a local or foreigner, visits a Georgian home, they are offered food and drink, and the hosts make sure that guests feel as comfortable as they would be in their own home.
Georgian’s have a tradition of hosting big dinners called supras, where a table is full of different dishes and people sit around it for hours. The leader of the supra, called the Tamada or the toastmaker, is in charge of keeping the audience at the table engaged. Supra revolves around many toasts, where a tamada talks for several minutes. Each toast has it’s own theme and the toastmaker must be very good at entertaining a crowd and holding his liquor.
When a tamadas proposes a toast, each male guest around the table is expected to follow the lead and say an individual toast on the topic the tamada proposed. Needless to say, these dinners can last several hours.
As Georgia is an Orthodox country, it follows the Julian calendar. Therefore, the nation celebrates a New Year holiday twice in a year, on January 1, as the rest of the world, and on January 13. According to the calendar, the New Year falls on the latter date, which locals call the “Old New Year.”
The most important New Year celebration comes on December 31, when families sit around the table very late in the evening and have a proper meal. Everyone starts congratulating each other at midnight, the time when it’s considered to be the “official” New Year.
Consequently, Christmas here is also celebrated on January 7th with a special meal called Guruli Gvezeli, or Guruli pie, a type of khachapuri with boiled eggs inside.
After Easter Sunday, locals visit graveyards to pay respect to their dead relatives. This custom has a sacred meaning for many Georgians. During Soviet rule, churches were closed, therefore the only place people could light a candle for their loved ones would be at graveyards. Even today, the tradition still remains.
As Easter symbolizes eternal life, Georgians do celebrate it with their entire families, dead or living. Visiting graveyards of relatives is a way of letting them know they are remembered and that Christ has risen.
It’s habitual to give a toast in respect of those who have passed away. After drinking, locals pour a small amount of wine on the grave, which is called “knocking over a goblet.” It’s a way of expressing a hope that in the afterlife they will be remembered by their living relatives and won’t be alone.
Georgian restaurants, cafes or bars do include a service fee on the final bill you get. The percentage varies according to the venue and is between 10-18 percent. Budget-friendly bars and cafes, though, don’t have it; therefore, tipping the waiter or bartender is up to you. However, if you think the service you got is worth more than what they have included, feel free to leave a tip for whatever amount you’d like.
Georgians love celebrating different occasions by inviting many guests. Weddings are no exception and tend to have more guests compared to other festivities; each side invites at least one hundred people. Even distant relatives of the families, who the bride and groom might not know, get an invitation. It is customary to attend a wedding when invited and declining is considered to be offensive unless a person has a good reason for it. Therefore, a wedding with 100-150 people is considered to be a small one.
Georgia might just be the original birthplace of wine, and it is so ubiquitous that locals living in houses with gardens have a couple vines planted. Therefore most of the country’s population makes wine at home. Whether that wine is good or bad is another topic, but everyone likes to brag about how great their wine is, and try to offer it as a gift if someone’s throwing a party or hosts some kind of celebration.