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Georgia celebrates Georgia's way

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, January 8
The Georgian Orthodox faithful celebrated Christmas at late night services on January 6. Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia the Second conducted the Christmas liturgy at the Holy Trinity Cathedral and hundreds of people attended, greeting Christmas with candles.

At the service Archpriest Petre Davitashvili read the Patriarch's Christmas epistle. “The birth of Jesus Christ gave the mankind a chance to choose between good and evil. Unfortunately the modern era has brought to us lots of sins, such as divorce, lechery, gambling, drug addiction, etc. which cause physical and spiritual harm. A person should find the right way in life, follow God and fulfil the teachings of the Bible. God will help anyone who repents,” the epistle said.

“I worry about the reforms in the educational system which discourage youth from getting a proper education. It’s unfortunate that scientific studies are becoming less and less prestigious when scientists were so courageous during the Communist era. Intelligent people are no longer appreciated but we should realise that no progress can be achieved without their contribution. We should find a way to prevent further mistakes. I wish there were some analytical courses at schools so that children could get used to thinking, decision making and social relations from their early years,” the epistle said.

“It’s also unfortunate that the international community has received untruthful information about us, which states that our ancient lands of Ossetia and Abkhazia belong to our neighbours. These regions are our time-honoured territory, just like any other part of our country, and the blessed day will come when we build a bridge of reconciliation together. Georgia is a tolerant country. Lots of different nations live here but Georgians will never let anyone break the unity of the homeland, defined by God. We have to counter the information war which says that Georgia is an artificial union. Thank God, people are returning to the churches after years of being apart from them. We should stand together and fight for our spiritual Jerusalem. God bless you all,” the epistle concluded.

The feast of Christ's birth is one of the most important of the twelve great feasts of the Orthodox Church. On this day Jesus Christ came to ransom the sins of mankind, giving them the opportunity to choose the right way. Priests explain that the old tradition of each family greeting this day with candles at its windows has been restored by the Orthodox Church. Patriarch Ilia blessed the faithful to light a candle after the liturgy as a sign they were letting Jesus Christ into their hearts. Christmas Day ends the 40-day fast which began on November 28, and the faithful are now able to eat anything, even on Wednesdays and Fridays, until after Theophany which falls on January 19.

The annual Christmas march, called Alilo, took place on January 7. Dato Nadiradze, a member of the Alilo organising committee from Tbilisi State University, gave The Messenger the details of it. “Alilo has become an important part of the Christmas tradition. This will be the 10th year we have greeted Christmas this way. There are always many people involved in the preparations, which last about a fortnight. Churches, Schools and Universities participate in the march and give presents to orphans and the homeless. Everything will be delivered by the cartload from the village of Metekhi. Today we will start from Republic Square, stop at the President’s Administration in Avlabari, receive presents from the President and continue to Holy Trinity Cathedral. His Holiness and Beatitude will bless us at the Cathedral.” Teona Kvinchiani, from Abkhazia, shared her happiness with us and said she hoped she would celebrate Christmas in her home town next year. “This is the first time I’ve been involved in the Christmas march and I can’t disguise my happiness. I wish you all the best in your lives and ask God to allow me to celebrate this wonderful day at home,” she said smiling.

Hundreds of people from different parts of Tbilisi came with their families to join in the march. Priests and their parishes, teachers and pupils, everyone enjoyed the festive march and delivered presents to the poor. “Everything is being done in accordance with the old tradition in which people gathered and gave presents to those unable to share the happiness of Christmas at the churches,” Prior of the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God at Nadzaladevi, Father Kakhaber Gogotishvili, explained to the media.