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Christmas in Georgia

In Georgia, the Eurasian country not the state, Christmas is celebrated on January 7. (The Georgian Orthodox Church uses the old Julian calendar for their festivals.) On Christmas, many Georgians go on an “Alilo” (a parade through the streets). They are dressed in special clothes or costumes, some as characters from the Christmas story. They often carry the Georgian flag. Carols are sung and vary across the country. The traditional Georgian Christmas tree is called a “chichilaki”. It is made of dried wood (hazelnut or walnut) branches that are shaved into long curly strips to form a small tree. They are decorated with small fruits or sweets. They are then traditionally burnt on the day before the Georgian Orthodox Epiphany (January 19). This marks the end of the year’s troubles. (Western Christmas trees are slowly becoming popular.) Georgians get their presents on New Year’s Eve (still December 31). Presents are traditionally brought from Tovlis Papa (Grandfather Snow). He normally wears all white clothing including a hat and cape or cloak called a “nabadi.” The cloak is heavy and warm and is made of white sheep’s wool. He comes down from the mountains of the Caucasus and walks around Georgia to deliver treats and sweets to all the children. Children leave out “churchkhela,” a treat made of walnuts and grape juice, shaped like a sausage.