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Christmas in Georgia

By Natalie Osipovi
Wednesday, January 8
The Georgian Orthodox Church celebrated Christmas yesterday following the Julian calendar, which is 13 days behind the new Gregorian calendar of most other Christians. The majority of Georgia’s population is Orthodox Christian, so it was a public holiday in Georgia on the 7th.

A liturgy was held at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Monday night at 11pm. The ceremony was led by the Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II together with the members of the Holy Synod and clergymen.

Georgians believe that if you want the Christmas Angel to come to your home on Christmas night, you have to light candles and place them next to windows, so the light can be seen from outside. It is believed that the lights will guide the way to your house. This tradition is observed in memory of the biblical story of Joseph and Mary searching for a shelter to give birth to Jesus.

On Christmas Eve, President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, congratulated the population. According to his statement, the celebration of Chritstmas helps us to get back to the initial purity in ourselves.

“We find power and energy for loving and forgiveness, kindness and humility. Merry Christmas! I wish you and your families health, happiness, prosperity and peace,” Margvelashvili said.

The president was followed by Prime Minister, Irakli Gharibashvili, who wished Georgians spiritual peace and happiness.

“It was faith which helped Georgians to fight against enemies while sacrificing themselves for the country,” Gharibashvili said.

The former mayor of Tbilisi, Gigi Ugulava, also congratulated the population with Christmas and wished them health and prosperity.

The Minister of Defense, Irakli Alasania, posted the congratulation on the official web-site of the Ministry, where he congratulated the Armed Forces of Georgia.

The 40-day fast, which began on November 28, ended on Christmas. During the next two weeks after the holiday, the parish will be able to get non-fasting products. This period is called “Msgepsi”.

The traditional Alilo began on 2 pm at Rose Revolution Square on January 7. The procession is traditionally theatrical. The members of Alilo marched down Rustaveli Avenue, Pushkin Street and Baratashvili bridge singing Christmas carols and exchanging gifts. Then part of the procession moved to the Patriarchate, while another part continued the march to the Holy Trinity Cathedral. The roads were closed to cars while people make their way up the streets. The members of the Alilo were given some sweets and gifts from the citizens. Finally, the collected donations will be distributed to orphanages and shelters for the poor.

The tradition of Alilo was established during the 5th and 6th centuries in Georgia, but during the period of sovietization, this tradition was banned. In the 1990s, the Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II restored Alilo and since then, the Christmas march is held every year with Ilia II’s blessing. The word “Alilo” itself comes from “Hallelujah”, which means “Bless the God”.