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New Year can be considered one of the most beloved and popular celebrations in Georgia. The fact that a number of traditions are connected to this festivity in all regions of Georgia and the celebrations last until January 14th, known as Old New Year, Georgian New Year according to old calendar, serves as a proof to that. During the last days before the New Year approaches you will see overcrowded markets, where the three main products in demand are walnuts, turkey and piglet to prepare the core dishes Gozinaki (Georgian candy with nuts and honey), Satsivi (turkey in walnuts sauce) and roasted pork for the occasional table. But the preparation for the most wonderful time of the year can be observed at best at Georgian households were most of the housewives are busy doing household chores and preparing a big assortment of dishes.
As a rule, almost everyone meets New Year with family at home and then goes out with friends, in most occasions visits several places in one night or on the contrary expects guests, especially Meklve, the person who first crosses the threshold and who is responsible for bringing good luck to the f
amily that will affect the whole year. Even though, some customs have been worn-out and replaced with simply hanging out with friends at restaurants and clubs, yet some of them are still widely practiced throughout the country. So here we would like to tell you about some of the most basic rituals connected to the New Year in Georgia:
In western Georgia on New Year’s Eve, the head of the family would go out with Chichilaki and a festive tray full of fruits and Georgian sweets. Bread with honey was later replaced by Gozinaki, the delicious candy made of walnut and honey, an absolute necessity of the New Year.
In Guria, the New Year’s herald will go to the domestic store of wine called Marani as well and pray for the fertility of vine. The institute of Mekvle is firmly preserved here too. This person, who is often a small boy, is believed to bring joy, success, happiness and prosperity.
Chichilaki, Georgian alternative to Christmas tree was crafted by hand from wood and decorated with sweets, fruits and nuts, as a symbol of fertility and fruitfulness. Even at present chichilaki is thought to be an essential part of New Year decoration that must be present in every family and must definitely be burnt down at the end of New Year celebrations. Every year a new chichilaki must be purchased and subsequently thousands of these curly white trees are made and sold annually.
In Eastern Georgia, the New Year was also always met with joy. A Georgian version of gingerbread named basila used to be baked. The cake was called basila after the saint Basil who used to live in the fourth century. At present this tradition has been almost faded away.
New Year was considered a family celebration, so in many cases family members used to stay at home, but on the very second day the feast shifted to the city streets. The city architecture also played its role in making it easier to celebrate different occasions in an urban environment. At that time the houses in Tbilisi had flat roofs that often served as perfect locations for gatherings and feasts.
The tradition of Mekvle was another curious and interesting Christmas custom that is still common in every household. Mekvle is a person who first crosses the threshold of the house after midnight, when the New Year officially begins. It is thought that some Mekvles can bring happiness, prosperity and fertility but others can bring unhappiness and bad luck. That is why, even nowadays, people are very careful when selecting a person to invite into their houses in advance, and making sure nobody crosses the threshold before the selected Mekvle shows up.
Another interesting practice during New Year was when the head of each family went out and made one or more shots in the air with his gun. Hence, the New Year’s Eve was so noisy that people often joked that if you had not known that it was New Year then you would have probably thought that there was a war. Today shots have been replaced with fireworks that create amazing scenery in the city.