Easter Traditions

Easter Traditions

The main religious holiday for Orthodox Christians is Easter, with its own unique traditional ways of celebration in different parts of Georgia, most of which have survived to this day. In the past, even the royal court made special preparations for Easter. Indeed, after the holiday church service in Tbilisi, the king, princes, and nobles would compete in archery and the winner would be awarded with a cup made of silver or gold.

Chona and Alilo

Chona (or Alilo) has long been a prominent ritual among the Easter traditions, still performed in almost all parts of Georgia. On Easter Day, a group of men would visit households throughout the entire village and congratulate residents by performing Easter songs and hymns. When they finished singing, from the balcony of the house, with the help of a rope, the hostess would let down a basket full of candy, fruits, and money. 

Holiday Dinner

Georgians have routinely served several traditional dishes and drinks for Easter dinner, such as special Easter lamb, dry-cured pork, shortbread, Georgian delicious cheese, herbs, fruit, red wine and, most importantly, Easter eggs colored blood red.. Easter cake or paska is the main event at Easter dinner, which Christians have been baking since ancient times as a sign of faith in the resurrection of their Savior. Easter cake should contain plenty of raisins and special spices.

Easter Traditions of Different Regions of Georgia

In Racha, on Easter morning, after prayer, people would cook wheat porridge, and bake lavashi flatbread in the tone oven. The following day they would celebrate "Gyorgontoba". In Samegrelo, people would make cheese-and-egg-stuffed dumplings.

Elsewhere, the Ingilo people of Saingilo would start their holiday preparations on Good Friday. Then, on Easter Day, the men took Easter eggs, food, and drinks to the cemetery.  The following morning, dressed in new clothes, everyone gathered in the eastern part of the house and lit candles.

In the region of Guria, people have always prepared at great length for Easter. They would ordinarily sew a bunch of new clothes as well as leather balls of different colors and sizes. On Easter Saturday evening, people would clean the entire house and prepare Easter dishes. At midnight, everyone would go to church, and visit the cemetery after the service at which the priest would bless small celebratory tables prepared by families.

Svaneti is another region that stands out for its Easter traditions. In the middle of the night, the entire population would attend the church service, and in the following morning, families lit candles at small celebratory tables by the cemetery and sang Eastern hymns. In the olden days, the Easter celebration lasted for the whole week and ended with White Sunday where every village selected a bullock and after the church service an ox fight was held in the village square. This tradition is still alive today in the historical Tao-Klarjeti and modern Artvini province.

Wheatgrass – Symbol of Life

The traditional of sowing wheatgrass at Easter, originates from old Christian customs and is widespread in all parts of Georgia. According to this, believers germinate the seeds of wheat on plates or bowls on Palm Sunday. Meanwhile, the rolling of Easter eggs across green grass is also common practice, and represents their Savior's victory over death.

On Easter Monday, it’s common in all parts of Georgia for people to visit the graves of their relatives, and to pray for the dead, and roll an egg over their grave. Some people bring a plate of home-grown fresh wheatgrass with them.

Easter is a movable feast, celebrated according to the Orthodox calendar. However, it’s always associated with spring and the renewal of and hope for life, remaining a sacred and special day for everybody.

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