Easter in Georgia
March – May (date changes)
Easter in Georgia is the most important holiday in the country apart from Christmas, for it commemorates the essence of the Christian faith, namely the resurrection of Jesus.
Celebrated on a grand scale nationwide, Easter is precluded by a 40-day religious fast which culminates in Holy Week, during which the last days of Jesus’ life are recalled and special liturgies are held daily at every cathedral in Georgia. The most important of these Holy Week liturgies are Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper and Foot Washing by Jesus with foot-washing ceremonies held in cathedrals and monasteries. In Tbilisi, the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia washes the feet of 12 church servants to commemorate Christ washing the disciples' feet. In the evening, all vestments are changed to dark colors to mark the beginning of the Passion.
Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Christ, and as such, Georgians sometimes call it Red Friday. Eggs are boiled and painted red as a symbol of Jesus's blood, and on Palm Sunday, the eggs are placed on green wheatgrass. A symbol of new life, resurrection and eternity, people start to grow the grass a week in advance. They also bake an Easter cake called paska. In churches, a liturgy commemorating the removal of Jesus from the cross takes place. During the reading of the death and burial of Jesus, an icon depicting the body of Christ is taken down from a cross, wrapped in a white cloth and hidden.
On the evening of Holy Saturday, people take the eggs and Georgian easter cake to churches to be blessed. The most devoted parishioners gather on Saturday evening to spend the night praying and awaiting the resurrection of Jesus on Sunday morning. A unique service of lamentation is conducted in churches as people await the arrival of the Holy Fire, which miraculously appears annually in the symbolic tomb of Jesus at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The fire is then flown to Orthodox countries such as Greece, Georgia, Romania, Ukraine and Russia, where it is received by church and state leaders.
Easter Sunday begins with loud greetings of "Christ has risen!", which is answered with " He is risen indeed!” The paska bread is eaten and eggs cracked for good luck. In a special game, each person selects an egg and starts tapping it on their opponent's egg. The person whose egg cracks first loses, and at the end of the game, whoever has the fewest broken eggs is the winner.
On the following Monday, Georgians visit the graves of relatives to pay their respects to the dead. (Some also do this on Easter Sunday.) Visitors light candles and roll red Easter eggs across the grave. A small feast follows, with toasts given in honor of the dead and a small portion of the wine poured onto the tombs to "clink" glasses with the deceased. People eat meat dishes, sweets, khachapuri bread and pastries. As Easter in Georgia is a symbol of resurrection and eternal life, the people rejoice, believing that they will be reunited with their relatives in the afterlife.
Note: Easter is determined by the lunisolar calendar. Although its date changes every year, it always falls in the springtime.