by Maggie Feldman, Greenheart Travel teacher in the Republic of Georgia
Rest & Relaxation: These were the two keys to the past couple of weeks. As a result of Easter, we have recently had some longer vacation weekends and shorter school weeks. I decided to stay in the country during vacation in order to experience what Easter was like here in Georgia. It is said to be the biggest holiday of the year. Much like in America, every family celebrates the holiday in their own special way, but there are some standard traditions. (Quick Disclaimer: I am sure there are plenty more traditions practiced here during Easter, however I am only going to mention the ones that I experienced)
Let’s begin! The Friday before Easter, I spent most of the day with my host mom, Teniko, cooking food in preparation for Saturday and Sunday. We made Khatchapuri, multiple salads, and some cakes. On this Friday we also dyed eggs. Tradition #1 –This is not quite like the egg dy-athon we have in America. All the eggs we dyed were red in honor of what they call “Red Friday”…..or the day that Jesus was nailed to the cross. The eggs usually get displayed in a red dish with grass growing in the middle as a sign of new birth.
On Saturday we went to the village Gordi. This is where my host dad, Merabi’s parents live. It is about 45 minutes from Khoni and it is up in the mountains. It was absolutely beautiful and great for hiking! On Saturday we visited and prepared the graves of lost relatives in Gordi. Tradition #2 — Usually the family gravesites are completely gated off with a wait high fence, from the rest of the graves in the cemetery. By preparing the graves, we swept the enclosed area and placed flowers to get ready for Sunday.
Cue Sunday…Easter….or as they say in Georgia “Qriste Agsdgaa” Tradition #3—“Qriste Agsdgaa” (I have decided this is pretty much one of the hardest things to say for non-native speakers……I usually have a couple back-of-the-throat coughing episodes as I try to say it) Roughly translated this phrase means “Christ has Risen”. This is how they say hello to everyone they see on Easter rather than saying “Gamarjoba.” The response to someone saying “Qriste Agsdgaa” to you is to say “Jeshmaritad” (significantly easier to pronounce than the first part). I haven’t fully figured out the translation to the response.
We had a supra with the family in Gordi on Easter. Tradition #4– Most families have large supras or as I mentioned in a previous blog “celebrations” revolving around food. This is a big deal on Easter because many people fast before Easter. Fasting in the Georgian Orthodox tradition means that you don’t eat any meat or animal by-products……..basically you live a vegan lifestyle for about 40 days. The term for this is “Sanmakhvo”. With most of the country being Georgian Orthodox, it is very easy to eat this way. Many restaurants and markets label their food “Sanmakhvo” so you know for sure that you can eat these items. Then after the supra the family went back to the gravesites that had been prepared the day before to roll the eggs.