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Georgians march for Christmas

By Sopo Datishvili
Thursday, January 8
On January 7, the Georgian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas. The Alilo march in Tbilisi has already become a further tradition of its own. On Christmas Eve people join this march arranged and blessed by Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II. This year, as usual, it began at Rose Revolution Square and finished at Holy Trinity Cathedral.

At 2 p.m, after receiving directives from the organizers, the people gathered in the square set off for the cathedral. The boys were dressed in white with red crosses on their clothes and held stars in their hands as a symbol of the Christmas star. In spite of the cold weather both children and parents seemed highly delighted with the march. “This is the first time I have participated in Alilo and I am very happy today. My mom and I are going to walk together till the end,” said Pikria, 5.

Not only children but the elderly were ready to walk the whole way. “I participated in Alilo last year. Today I’m here with my grandson and we are going to walk to the cathedral,” said Mzia Gureshashvili.

The children and adults were given instructions by the priests and their assistants whilst moving. “Alilo is a very old tradition for Georgians. It was restored and blessed by our Patriarch. Our ancestors did this almost the same way we do today. They used to collect sweets, and this was the part of the happiness brought by Christmas. Today we are going to march to the Holy Trinity Cathedral with baskets and collect presents on the way”, Father Luka Supatashvili told The Messenger.

The marchers were dressed in different costumes. There were shepherds, angels and wise men with huge puppet camels on their way to the cathedral. Some of the men were also dressed in Georgian traditional Chokha and woolen gowns -Nabadi. Students and schoolchildren gave the people special congratulation cards from the Patriarch. Huge baskets in which to collect sweets and other gifts were hung over buffaloes. “This year my duty is to give people the cards from the Patriarch as a present. In spite of the fact that I spent last night in the church at the Christmas Liturgy and I’m very sleepy now, I won’t be lazy and I will go with the others to the final destination,” said Ana Papashvili.

The Christmas march had a charitable aim as well. The sweets and gifts collected during it will be donated to boarding schools and the juvenile prison. “We are helping the children from different boarding schools. With these presents we want to share with them the happiness of such a blessed day. People come here and give us sweets, fruits and clothes for them,” said volunteer Dato Parsadanashvili.

Christmas is one of the most important holidays in the Orthodox Calendar. It is the culmination of a big fast which lasts 40 days. People of all ages and both sexes come out into the streets of Tbilisi, singing and congratulating each other, and walk to the Cathedral where they are met by Patriarch Ilia II. Every year Rustaveli Avenue, Freedom Square and Baratashvili Bridge form part of the route leading to the cathedral.