It’s the most wonderful time of the year. A time of singing and dancing, drinking and prancing; cooking and kissing, hoping and wishing. A time to uphold traditions passed down from generations before to those who we educate for the future. A time of special foods and family reunions.
Not this year. As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve missed Christmas before and, though part of me would love to be at home, I’m ultimately more about new experiences than routine. One of the sacrifices of travelling around is a lack of time with loved ones, but it is fascinating to experience such a magical time of year in such a different environment. The main difference being that Christmas in Georgia isn’t on December 25th…
Georgia is a predominantly Russian Orthodox country, and this particular religion follows a slightly different calendar to our own Gregorian version. ‘Christmas Day’ here is on January 7th, which is our 'December 25th' in the Julian calendar. However, the Christmas spirit is very much on show at this time of the year. Bright lights radiate the streets and illuminate the monuments of Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, and evergreens have sprouted along the streets.
Santa hats are worn by smiling faces and tinsel is strung from every ceiling. I even met Santa Claus in Batumi, the evening before we moved on to the capital city.
Ultimately, though, it isn’t yet time for Grandfather Snow to deliver presents to little Georgians just yet. The streets of Tbilisi were crowded on the 25th, with all shops open for business as usual and people walking along just like every other day. The onus was thus on myself and Justine to maintain some of the traditions that we hold so dear. One of them is to watch Love Actually on Christmas Eve. A wonderful Christmas movie!
Many other things are often only watched at this time of year, and we spent part of our Boxing Day at a performance of the Nutcracker in Tbilisi’s State Opera & Ballet Theatre. It was a colourful and superb performance, though compared to the one other ballet I have seen this year in Kazakhstan, it couldn’t have been anything less.
Those are traditions to be treasured either side of Christmas Day, but what of the main day itself? At home, life on December 25th often revolves around the creation and devouring of Christmas lunch. The one time I’ve spent Christmas abroad before it was impossible to get hold of turkey, and it was a stain on an otherwise enchanting Korean Christmas-uh. Having done some scouting, we found a way of eating the favoured Christmas bird. The Tbilisi Marriott Hotel – who also helped us locate the theatre for the Nutcracker – were putting on a Christmas buffet for 70GEL, which works out as less than £30. Though travelling with a budget in mind, it is sometimes worth splurging for something truly special. The chocolate fountain alone makes it worthwhile.
And special this was. It was a twist on a normal Christmas dinner – the turkey had a lightly cooked strip of apple on the top, which sweetened and moistened the taste in the mouth. I’ve also never had quail or chicken chow mein on Christmas Day, either. But the main traditions – copious amounts of turkey and bountiful volumes of excellent wine – were upheld in the best ways on this most unusual of Christmases.
Love you all