Eat, drink and be merry!

It is New Year’s Eve and the busiest time of year for shops and markets and bakers. Everyone is preparing for the New Year feasts, which will begin after midnight tonight and continue well into the next day.

It is one of the most important celebrations of the year.

Tables will be groaning beneath the weight of barbecued pork, roasted turkey, satsivi (chicken boiled in nut sauce), suckling pig, boiled and fried fish, fruit, nuts, salads, lobiani (bean bread), khachapuri (cheese bread), churchkhela (long strings of nuts dipped in grape juice), suluguni cheese, mchadi (corn bread) and cakes.

This will be accompanied by Georgian wine, traditionally drunk from ram or goat horns called kantsi.

Some of the horns can take 2-3 litres of wine and it is traditional to drink the horn dry in one go!

Bread is an important part of the feasting and bakers have been working all night. People have been queuing outside our local baker since 5.00 a.m. this morning, each waiting to collect their 40 or 50 breads!

We were lucky. Our taxi driver (the one with the beautiful white Volga) collected our breads when he picked up his. He had been queuing for 6 hours!

We will be thinking of family and friends at midnight. There is a tradition here called Mekvle (somebody who visits you first in the New Year). The appearance of a Mekvle, who wishes happiness, success and prosperity to everyone in the coming year, is a long standing tradition and is often performed by a family member who is let out for a few seconds to let him/her enter first and bring joy.

Georgian hospitality, generosity and love of life is famous. In fact, it goes back to the beginning!

According to Georgian legend:

“When God was distributing portions of the world to all the people of the Earth, the Georgians were having a party and doing some serious drinking. As a result, they arrived late and were told by God that all the land had been distributed. When they replied that they were late only because they had been lifting their glasses in praise of Him, God was pleased, and gave the Georgians that part of Earth He had been reserving for Himself.”

I wish all my friends a very happy and prosperous New Year. I wish I could be your Mekvle and be the first to greet the New Year with you.

Not once but twice!

Christmas is celebrated on 7 January in Georgia (25 December on the Julian calendar) but because the tall person is English we also celebrate Christmas on 25 December.

In our house we celebrate twice!

We combine some of the European and Georgian Christmas traditions.

We have two Christmas trees, one Georgian and one European type tree.

The Georgian Christmas tree is called Chichilaki and is made of soft wood with curled branches that look like an old man’s beard.

Sometimes it is hazelnut branch which is carved into a Tree of Life shape and decorated with fruits and sweets.

The Western custom of a Christmas tree (nadzvis khe) is also popular.

We have one, which we decorated with ornaments, baubles and lights.

You can see one of the baubles is in the form of the Georgian flag.

On 7 January it is traditional to go on Alilo (a modified pronunciation of Alleluia), a mass walk in the streets, dressed in special clothing.

The Alilo tradition dates back to the 5-6th centuries.

Many children go on the Alilo march and are given sweets by grown ups.

The Alilo carols vary across different parts of Georgia but most use these words: “ოცდახუთსა დეკემბერსა, ქრისტე იშვა ბეთლემსაო'” – “on 25th December Christ was born in Bethlehem”.

The Georgian equivalent of “Santa Claus” is known as tovlis babua, meaning “Grandfather snow”.

According to legend he lives in the mountains of Svanetia in Georgia and has gray hair and a long beard.

He wears a white cloak called nabadi and a white mutton hat – papanaki.

Tovlis babua has to work especially hard this year because he has to come to our house not once but twice!

New Year greetings from the little people of Georgia

The little person’s class at school performed a New Year play today.

The theme of the play was ‘How Georgians Celebrate New Year.’

The little people dressed in traditional costume.

My little person wore the traditional male tunic called the chokha.

The chokha is usually magenta or white and has cartridge pouches on the chest.

He also wore traditional tall leather boots and a belt holding a long, embossed dagger, called a khanjali.

The girls wore kartuli kaba, the traditional female costume.

They all acted out the tradition of giving gifts and sang Georgian songs.

The tall person and De said it was very lovely.

Happy New Year from the little people of Georgia!

Let them sleep

Some memories are hard to erase.

We have walked across this bridge that spans the Mtkvari River many times but never noticed these emblems of Soviet times.

They sleep like memories waiting to be wakened by those who were there.


Let them sleep. They are memories of another time.

Safety first ladies!

I saw another lady who sells things today and was concerned to see that her mobile shop was dangerously overloaded with apples and mandarins.

You can see from the picture that the wheels are leaning in a very precarious way.

Hmm, I doubt if these mobile shops are subject to vehicle safety inspections.

I am worried that the ladies who sell things might hurt themselves if a wheel fell off or an axle broke.

I have an idea that might help them.

There are lots of mechanics in Car Street in my neighborhood.

I am sure they could fix and service these mobile shops and issue an inspection decal or sticker to show that they are road-worthy.

Safety first, ladies who sell things!

Paint my picture mister!

You may remember that there is a small colony of artists at one end of Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi.

They sit at their easels surrounded by their colorful paintings of old Tbilisi and portraits of beautiful Georgian women in traditional dress. 

They paint from memory or imagination as they cannot see any of the scenes they paint from their sidewalk studio.

Their pictures are displayed at the edge of the sidewalk and passers-by pause to admire and sometimes buy.

This artist has painted several pictures of Tbilisi in winter but I noticed he is working on a painting of a sunny scene, perhaps it helps to keep him warm because it is very cold today.

Christmas news from the BBC

Good morning/afternoon/evening/night. Thank you for tuning into the BBC News (Bassa’s Blogging Channel).

This is your good news correspondent, Bassa, reporting from Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia.

Our top story is from one of my favorite blogs, Collies of the Meadow.

I know many of you follow the adventures of Chuck and his Collies at the Meadow but some may not have seen this wonderful post about Christmas.

Narrated by Trevor, the Alpha Male at the Meadow, this story is a heart warming celebration of Christmas. 

Trevor tells us that before he came to live with Chuck he spent the winters in a kennel inside a barn. Now he is warm and fed and loved.

That’s all folks. Remember, good news makes you feel good. Be part of Bassa’s good news!

The prayer diet

You may know that I am a huge admirer of the ladies who sell things. I see many of them on my walks and have had lots of opportunities to observe their sales techniques.

The ladies who sell things are very clever and use a range of subliminal techniques to increase their sales – you may recall my investigative stories about the use of lemons to attract customers.

A couple of days ago I noticed another subliminal sales technique that exploits two very powerful aspects of Georgian life – religion and food.

The lady in the picture is selling beeswax candles. Candles are sold everywhere in Georgia and are used for prayer and religious devotion.

What may not be immediately noticeable in the picture is the weighing machine.

Georgian food is especially delicious and it is not difficult to put on an extra kilo or two or three!

Perhaps this lady who sells things has realised that people who are concerned about their weight sometimes ask for divine intervention to support their diet.  

I can imagine the conversation. Your friend wants to lose 10 kilos? Then you will need two large candles and five small ones.