Georgian traditions

Georgia is a country with population of 4,570,934 (2011 estimate). Its people call it Sakartvelo. Georgia is located in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. 83,9% of Georgians are members of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

Map of Georgia
Map of Georgia

Saint George is the patron saint of Georgia. People in Georgian province of Kakheti (Kaxeti), located in the east of the country, have an icon of Saint George known as "White George". The White George can be seen on the coat-of-arms of Georgia. There are folk tales stating that Georgian army was in numerous battles led by a white knight who arrived from the Heaven.

Saint George on coat-of-arms of Georgia
Saint George on coat-of-arms of Georgia

On the 28th of August people of Georgia celebrate Mariamoba or Day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. One of the most famous places of pilgrimage on that day is the Sameba church in town of Kazbegi (Stepanzminda) in the north of Georgia, close to its border with Russia.

Sameba church in Kazbegi
Sameba church in Kazbegi

Beside visiting a church, praying, lighting a candle there are some other traditions held there. People ride horses up and down the hill. Everyone can participate. On Mariamoba Georgians carry lamb to the church. They walk around the church three times and then slaughter the lamb. Meat is then boiled and shared among family and friends.

Georgians are known as very hospitable people. In one of their proverbs it is said “Every guest is God-send”.

Wine making is great passion of Georgians. One of the most famous local wines is white wine called “Tsinandali”. It is produced since 1886.

Weddings in Georgia are quite big. Usually there are several hundred people attending the wedding. It is a must to except the invitation to the wedding. If you refuse it would be a big insult for those who are inviting you.

Georgian wedding has three main stages - “machankloba” (marriage proposal), “nishnoba” (betrothal) and “kortsili” (wedding). In the past parents used to choose the bride or groom for their children. Nowadays it is not so anymore, but the role of family is still very important.

Approval for the wedding by relatives is needed. Bride's and groom's families must get to know each other well before the decision on wedding is actually made. When everything is finally settled the betrothal ceremony is held.

When the bride is entering to her new home the groom climbs on the roof and set free a white bird. Then the bride and groom get a special wedding glass of wine. The groom drinks first. He puts a wedding ring in wine and gives the glass to bride. She drinks a bit. She returns the glass to groom who takes the ring out of the glass. After that he gives the glass back to his bride with words of love and devotion.

What follows is kind of checking of the new home by the bride. Traditionally before entering the house the bride and groom break special plate for luck. To make new home prosperous grains of cereals are thrown to the corners of house. The couple gets wooden ornaments called “chiragdani” or “the life tree”.

It is especially important that during the inspection of the house bride touches the cauldron. It is a symbol of the house. The bride goes round the cauldron with oil or wheat three times.

Like everywhere in the world weddings in Georgia are joyous and noisy events. “Tamada” or the toastmaster encourages everyone present at the wedding to make a toast. The first toast is made for the joyous, peaceful and prosperous future life of the bride and groom.

One of the most famous traditions held at every Georgian wedding is the abduction of bride. Nowadays bride and her family must except the whole thing. The abduction is done to avoid huge costs of the wedding. With the abduction the wedding can be much more modest. If possible the couple can organize big party in the future.

Orthodox wedding in Georgia
Orthodox wedding in Georgia

All the expenses of the wedding are paid by the groom and his family. Financial status of the bride is not that important. Her virtues are what counts.

Traditionally man in Georgian family is the one who financially supports and physically protects the woman. On the other side woman is the one who is spiritual force of the family. She also keeps traditions.