Easter traditions in Georgia

Making a bag for willow branches for Willow Sunday; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012

Handmade bag for willow branches; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012

To all of our family and friends in the United States, Happy Easter! To all of our friends in Georgia, Greece and other Orthodox countries, we will wait until next Sunday, and then say: “Christ is Risen!” To which you will undoubtedly respond: “Indeed He is Risen.”

The week before Easter begins with Willow Sunday which Americans know as Palm Sunday. Special services are conducted in almost every church in Georgia, but particularly on Passion Thursday and Good Friday. Passion Thursday is connected to the Last Supper when Jesus Christ washed his apostles’ feet and when Judah betrayed him. Next Thursday, the Catholicos Patriarch of Georgia will wash the feet of twelve priests just like Christ did with the Apostles. Good Friday is connected with the Crucifixion, lamentation and burial of Jesus Christ. In Svetistkhoveli Cathedral, where Christ’s Robe is buried, a cross will be put in front of the altar at 2pm, and a special ritual will follow. On Saturday night, the most devout Orthodox Christians go to church and stay at the church until late Easter morning. Then people have a special meal to break the fast. Georgians fast for 40 days before Easter. Fasting means no sugar, eggs, dairy products, fish, or meat are allowed, as well as no sexual relations. On Easter Monday, churches conduct a special prayer in memory of the deceased, and Orthodox Christians bring red eggs and flowers to the graves of their relatives.

People prepare for Easter by dying eggs red on Good Friday and by baking Easter Bread, called Paska. The eggs symbolize the blood of Christ. They are placed on green wheat grass, which symbolizes new life, resurrection, and eternity. People grow this wheat grass  on flat plates two weeks before Easter. On the Saturday evening before Easter, people take the eggs and Easter breads to church for a blessing. After the service, people take the bread and eggs home and crack the eggs during the next days. The person who ends up with the last unbroken egg is believed to have a year of good luck.

Dye for eggs for Easter; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012

Wheat being grown for Easter; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012

In surfing the Web, I found two interesting articles related to Easter. In 2009, President Saakashvili attended Easter services at the Holy Trinity Cathedral and made a statement to journalists that mixed Easter with nationalism. He said, “This is a celebration of victory of a good over an evil; we should all remember that goodness is on the Georgian side and eventually the falseness and evil will definitely collapse and retreat and Georgia will prevail and gain victory,” http://www.allgeo.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6026:orthodox-christians-mark-easter&catid=44:communities&Itemid=2

The other—a multimedia piece—shows how one village in Georgia celebrates Easter by playing Lelo, a pre-Christian rugby-like game with a 16-kilogram ball. http://www.eurasianet.org/node/34614

Red eggs for Easter; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012

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About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

3 Responses to Easter traditions in Georgia

  1. Hello dear Keith,
    I am from Georgia, currently studying in Germany, at Karlshochschule International University.
    As the Easter is coming soon, I was planning to do a small presentation about Georgian Easter here, in Germany. I decided to search for some additional info in Google and I was amazed by your article.
    It’s so nice and emotional when you read how well can people of other nationalities describe and love your country!
    Thanks a lot for sharing this,
    Best Regards,
    Nino Khachiashvili

    • keithrkenney says:

      You are very kind. My wife and I love Georgia. It is our second home. It might be our “first” home if it wasn’t so far away from where our children live. We are back in Tbilisi for a month–June 17 to July 17, 2013. We arrived from the airport, walked down a street near Freedom Square and saw TWO old friends. You are not in a “foreign” country if you see 2 friends on the street moments after you arrive!

  2. Pingback: Easter In Georgia – Hopscotch Adoptions

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