Georgian Culture & Customs

One of the most famous national monuments of Georgia is Kartlis Deda – the mother of Georgia. Her statue rises above Tbilisi with a sword in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, which symbolizes the protection and hospitality that Georgians are ready to offer their guests.

Mother of Georgia Statue in Georgia’s Capital city, Tblisi

Traditions of hospitality

If you ask the Georgian for directions, there is a good chance that they will not only show you the direction but will personally accompany you to your destination. Well, if the person you ask does not know the answer, everyone passing by will immediately connect to it and will certainly help.

For example, if you are a tourist and fall into the countryside, night falls – you can knock on any house, and without having yet to explain the reasons – you will be immediately seated at the table and the owners will help you to figure what you should do next, most likely you will stay at their home for the night. Tourists talk about cases when Georgians invited them to their house for a night or a week. Tourists often suffer from the endless generosity with which Georgians relate to a foreigner.

A guest in a Georgian house has almost royal status, it does not matter if he stays in the Georgian house for one evening or several days. Every few minutes, the friendly hosts offer guests food and drinks. Georgians insist that you stay with them for as long as possible. If a guest admires any item in the house, he immediately receives it as a gift.

Georgians are perhaps one of the most laid-back hosts you’ve ever come across. Their reputation for generosity is combined with their openness and tolerance. Georgians are rarely offended by anything, but do not try to refuse if the Georgians offer you wine – here it will be perceived as an insult.

Georgian poetry celebrates hospitality more than courage or skillful handling of weapons. Georgian folklore idealizes a hospitable, generous host.

Traditional feast

A humble supra experience at a local restaurant

The Georgian tradition of hospitality is personified by a ceremonial feast – supra. Supra is held on birthdays, death days, weddings, anniversaries, national holidays, religious holidays, memory days, in honor of a guest, or even just on the occasion of the meeting of close friends. In any case, such a feast is not complete without wine.

In supra, wine and food are equally important. During the feast, a series of toasts are offered by Tamada (“toast master”), with the participation of all guests. Plots of toasts praise love, family, individual themes, nationalist themes, life and death, God and in a specific order. Endless, jokes, jokes and humorous memories are an integral part of the supra. A couple of toasts will be dedicated to the tourist invited to the supra – they are usually translated by the younger of the guests.

The host must balance on the verge of entertainment and seriousness, controlling the entire event from its place at the head of the table. Next to him is Merikipe – the one who pours wine to everyone, including the toastmaster. Toasts are rarely short and often separated by long pauses. Formal supras are controlled by a strict code of conduct. No one drinks at the table until Tamada finishes her toast while proclaiming “bolo mde” (“bottoms up!”). This means that you drink until your glass is empty. Leaving wine at the bottom of the glass is considered disrespectful of the toastmaster and the person to whom the toast is dedicated. Supra on the day of death is celebrated on the anniversary of the departure of man into another world. Sometimes the drops remaining at the bottom of an empty glass are sprinkled with bread crumbs as a treat for the deceased.

Summing up his toast, the host invites one of the guests to continue his thought. The guest should develop the theme of the toast proposed by the host, and the rest of the feast should also follow. According to etiquette, before drinking, guests clink glasses with each other, while touching the glass of another guest should be under his arm, not above. Often the intention to be polite leads to a long skirmish among guests when everyone wants to touch the glass correctly, and the whole process lasts almost longer than the toast itself before.

Guests, making toasts, gesticulate enthusiastically, compete in the wit and grandeur of the toast. No one should leave the table during the opening toast of the host and when one of the guests takes the floor. It does not matter for what reason and at what time of the celebration you want to leave the table, it is considered impolite without the permission of the host.

There are less formal supras, with a more flexible code of conduct. Supras among close friends, or in honor of a long-awaited guest, are held in a more relaxed atmosphere and can be held wherever there is a table for which guests can sit down – in the garage, at picnic tables in the playground or even in the field with a makeshift improvised table. In this environment, the atmosphere is more democratic, you can drink with toast and without. The amount of wine drunk on such holidays may seem excessive for a foreigner, but the ability to drink with dignity symbolizes masculinity and stamina, which are revered among Georgians qualities.

No matter formal or spontaneous, the supra is held in a restaurant or in the basement – they must sing at this celebration. Ancient hymns and ballads are performed by all the guests of the supra, demonstrating the famous Georgian polyphonic singing of such amazing quality that will surprise a foreigner who has counted the amount of wine drunk by the “singers”. Songs sound more and more as the early morning hours approach. Supra lasts until all the wine at the table is over.

Supra is the key to understanding the welcoming and hospitable Georgian soul; Every tourist who wants to imbue the spirit of Georgian traditions should take part in such an event.

Culture of Georgian winery

Natural wine production in Georgia

There were such lines in one popular song about Georgia:

“If you drank and felt sad – You are not a man, you are not Georgian”

For Georgians, wine is more than just a drink. Wine strengthens the national spirit and unites guests during the traditional Caucasian holidays.

Vines are mentioned in Georgian legends, stories and songs. Wine in Georgia is a true national treasure that attracts tourists and sommeliers from around the world.

It is assumed that the Georgian tradition of winemaking originated about eight thousand years ago. Throughout history, winemaking has become not only one of the foundations of the Georgian economy but also an important part of its spiritual culture.

Wine is a signature feature of any Georgian holiday and is also used in everyday life. Traditionally, wine is drunk with formalities, no matter how random the event is. An example is an impromptu supra among friends gathered on a street corner or in a public park.

One of the traditional ways to drink wine – from a special vessel “Kanchi”, which is a hollow goat horn. Regardless of the level of the event, to drink in Georgia means to drink “bolo mde”, that is, “to the bottom” and at a time.

Georgian wine is organic and claimed to almost not have a hangover the next day regardless of drank amount. We wouldn’t recommend testing it, but indeed – the winemaking in Georgia is different from European standards.

The hosts repeatedly offer home-made wine made by themselves or their relatives to each guest in a Georgian family, especially a foreigner. Winemaking culture has existed in all regions of Georgia for many years, so the tradition of making homemade wine is widespread throughout the country, even in large cities – Tbilisi and Batumi.

Georgian wedding traditions.

A traditional Georgian wedding

Georgian wedding traditions begin with “makankloba” – matchmaking. Family members and friends help arrange meetings for prospective couples. The next step is the “niche” – the engagement, which ends with the wedding ceremony “cortis”.

The first rule of a Georgian wedding is the abundance of invited guests. Sometimes their number reaches several hundred. By the way, to refuse to come to the wedding is impossible. Since this is a big offense for the inviting party, and it happens that many years of hostility between two families begins with it. The bridesmaid and groomsmen should not be in a romantic relationship with each other.

Families of the bride and groom should give the green light to the wedding. Historically, the abduction of the bride was a common thing and was justified if it was done with the consent of the bride. In the twenty-first century, this tradition has lost its relevance, but it is sometimes practiced in more rural areas.

According to a beautiful Georgian tradition, the bridegroom, when the bride enters their future home, rises to the roof and releases a white bird. Then the couple is served a wedding glass of wine. The groom takes the first sip from him, then puts the wedding ring in it, hands the glass to the bride, who also sip from the glass, and then takes out the ring and officially hands it to her chosen one, pronouncing words of fidelity and love.

Then the solemn “inspection” by the bride of the groom’s house begins, where she will become the mistress. Accompanied by bridesmaid and groomsmen and guests, the bride and groom break a beautiful plate “for good luck” in front of the house. To make the house rich, and the family rejoices in the offspring, cereal grains are thrown in the corners of the house, and the couple is presented with wooden jewelry – “chiragdani”, representing the “tree of life”. During a walk around the house, the bride should touch the cauldron, which is a symbol of the hearth, and three times around the pot with oil or wheat grain.

Georgians decided to arrange a wedding procession through the streets. The bride and groom wave to a passerby through the hatch in the roof of the limousine, while guests and family members follow them in an endless stream of the wedding procession. Beeps and screams of joy are heard miles in advance.

Georgian wedding supras are among the most revered. The main toastmaster offers toasts for the newlyweds, and for each individual table a vice-toastmaster is appointed. Toasts for the bride and groom contain the wishes of successful parenting, long life together. The wedding supra lasts until the morning, and sometimes the whole next day. Georgians are even jokingly competing among themselves, whose family will last longer on the supra. You can drink and eat here until the last guest leaves the table.

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