In Georgia, Christmas is celebrated on January 7. This is because the Georgian Orthodox Church (such as the Orthodox Churches in Russia, Ethiopia and other countries) uses the old “Julian” calendar for its festivals.
On Christmas day, many people will go to ‘Alilo’, to parade in the streets. They dress in special costumes and costumes to celebrate Christmas. Some people carry Georgian flags and others can dress as people in the Christmas story. Children like to participate in the Alilo since they are often given sweets!
Christmas carols are sung and vary throughout the country. Many of the songs and carols sung during the Alilo include these words: “ოცდახუთსა დეკემბერსა, ქრისტე იშვა ბეთლემსაო ‘” (otsdakhutsa dekembersa qriste ishva betlemsao) which means “on December 25 Christ was born in Bethlehem”.
In Georgian Happy / Merry Christmas is ‘გილოცავ შობა-ახალ წელს’ (gilocav shoba-akhal c’els).
The traditional Georgian Christmas tree is called ‘Chichilaki’ (ჩიჩილაკი). It is made of dry wood, such as hazelnut or walnut branches, which are cut into long curled strips to form a small tree. Some people say they look like the long white beard of St. Basil the Great! They are decorated with small and sweet fruits. Traditionally they are burned the day before the Orthodox Epiphany of Georgia (January 19). This is meant to mark the end of the year’s problems. The ‘Western’ Christmas tree (nadzvis khe) is also popular.
People receive their gifts on New Year’s Eve (December 31). The gifts are traditionally brought to children by “Tovlis Papa” (or tovlis babua in the dialects of western Georgia) which means “grandfather’s snow”. I usually wear all white clothes, including a hat and a cape / cloak called “nabadi”. The coat is heavy and very warm, since it is made of white sheep wool. The shepherds were darker colors, but Tovlis Papa had to wear a white one!
On New Year’s Eve, he descends from the Caucasus Mountains and walks around Georgia to deliver treats and sweets to all the children of Georgia. The children put aside “Churchkhela”, a delicious delicacy made of walnuts and grape juice, which has the shape of a sausage, for Tovlis Papa. Santa Claus is also called “Papa Tovlis”, but the real “Papa Tovlis” does not care, it’s cold like the mountains he lives in!