Georgia is a country of rich, century-old traditions that actively root in the local culture. Here, you’ll find all the different festivals that are unique to the state. And as Georgians love celebrating everything from the birthday of Tbilisi to the harvesting of the grapes, festivals always feature food, music and good wine. There’s no way to experience the culture better than taking part in these celebrations.
Even though the official day of the foundation of Tbilisi isn’t known, Georgians still celebrate it with the most significant events. The first Tbilisoba was held on October 28, 1979, and has been marked every last weekend of October ever since. It’s the time when harvest time is over, nature is changing color, and the weather is still warm. But for the past couple of years, the government has decided to move the celebrations to September, and the dates vary each time.
The central districts of the city are full of different vendors selling locally made products such as cheese, wine, spirits, vegetables, fruits, handmade clothes and accessories, honey, dried fruits, Churchkhela; everything you can ever think of. But the celebration is not all about food; you will experience theatrical performances from the country’s historical past, and dance and folk music shows, which end with a gala concert and fireworks.
It’s not entirely a festival, more of a one-day celebration. But Mtskhetoba-Svetitskhovloba is one of the most important public holidays in the country. Marked on October 14 each year, the event takes places in Mtskheta, and the origin can be traced back to the miraculous acquisition of Jesus Christ’s tunic – Georgia’s most significant relic.
Besides religious services held in Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, the city marks the day with different festive events.
A relatively new addition to the Georgian festival scene, New Wine Festival focuses on the wine made from the latest harvests. Spring is considered the time to unseal vessels of wine and bring them out for everyone to taste. The venue of the festival is changeable, as are the companies or family wineries who bring out their products. The festival fast gained popularity with increasing numbers of participants each year. Here, you can taste more than 60 varieties of Georgian wine, some of which are not even sold in the markets.
And as Georgians are obsessed with drinking and eating, there’s always a venue which serves mtsvadi (Georgian sashlik), fresh bread or other meals to keep you sober.
Held in the region of Tusheti, the festival celebrates the region’s cultural heritage. Traditionally, a horse race opens the event, and the winner gets a flag, and a sheep – locals are the main sheep breeders in the country. The region is a UNESCO World Heritage site distinguished by medieval towers, untouched villages and gorgeous landscapes. One of the best reasons to come to Tushetoba is to see how locals make the original Khinkali, the famous Georgian meat dumpling. And you might even want to try to make it yourself.
Held since 2003, Art-Gene is a traditional music festival held at the Ethnography Museum in Tbilisi. The festival features musicians specializing in traditional folk music, contemporary Georgian artists, and traditional dance troupes. Held in summer months, unlike other festivals in Georgia, Art-Gene is a week or more-day long celebration where locals come to enjoy nature, the evening summer breeze, and great music. During the day, you can wander through the stalls of handmade crafts, taste various meals and drink local wine or beer. There are plenty of possibilities to have a picnic with pleasant melodies in the background.
Besides medieval towers and gorgeous landscapes, the region of Tusheti is famous for its goat cheese. The festival is marked on the last week of May in Akhemta and attracts cheese producers from the nearby municipalities. Moreover, you can watch various sports activities, horse-race, handmade crafts and listen to local folk.
Georgia produces a wide selection of cheese, and the best place to try all the different types is the Cheese Festival held in Tbilisi. Since 2015, Armenian and Azerbaijani cheese producers started to participate in the festival offering more cheese varieties to its visitors! You can try dambal-khacho (a soaked cottage cheese that is dried afterwards), goat’s cheese called Guda, tenili – tightly woven into a braid, or cheese dipped in oils, spices, wine, honey, flowers and much more.
A vintage and harvest holiday in Georgia is called Rtveli and usually starts in late September and ends in mid-October. Georgia has been producing wine for 8,000 years already and the tradition of Rtveli dates back to that time as well. Like in many other countries, wine producers used to crush the grapes by foot, and with today’s technology everything is easier, some of the winemakers try to preserve the tradition and let their grandkids press the small amount. And when the harvest is over, the Georgian’s sit down and have a feast to celebrate the mid-Autumn abundance.
This religious and folk celebration held in Kakheti is also linked to the harvest festival. The festival name comes from the Alaverdi Cathedral where the whole ceremony takes place. The festivity lasts for several days and culminates on September 28, the day of the feast of St. Joseph Alaverdi, who was one of the Thirteen Assyrian Fathers and a founder of the 6th-century cathedral of his name.