Easter in Georgia
March – May (date changes)
Apart from Christmas, Easter is the most important national holiday in Georgia, for it commemorates the essence of the Christian faith - the resurrection of Jesus - and as such, it is celebrated on a large scale nationwide.
A 40-day-long religious fast precludes Holy Week, which culminates in Easter. Throughout the week, the last days of Jesus’ life are remembered, and every functioning church in Georgia holds a special liturgy dedicated to each day of Holy Week. The most important days, known as the Easter Triduum, are Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper and Foot Washing and is marked in churches and monasteries by a foot washing ceremony. In Tbilisi, the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia washes the feet of 12 church servants to commemorate Jesus' washing of His disciples' feet. In the evening, all vestments are changed to dark colors to mark the beginning of the Passion.
Good Friday is a holiday in Georgia commemorating the crucifixion and death of Christ. As such, Georgians sometimes call it Red Friday. People boil eggs and paint them red as a symbol of Jesus' blood. On Palm Sunday the eggs are placed on green wheatgrass, which locals start to grow a week in advance. The grass symbolizes new life, resurrection and eternity. They also bake an Easter bread 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 paska bread to churches for a blessing. The most devoted parishioners gather on Saturday evening to spend the night praying and awaiting Jesus' resurrection on Sunday morning. A unique service of lamentation is conducted in churches as people await the arrival of the Holy Fire, which Orthodox Christians believe 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's received by the church and state leaders.
Easter Sunday starts 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.
The following Monday is when Georgians visit the graves of their 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 while greeting the deceased with the traditional "Christ has risen! He has risen indeed!" 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" the glass with the buried. People eat meat dishes and sweets, and sometimes khachapuri and pastries. As Easter 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, and thus its date changes every year, although it always occurs in the springtime.