Giorgoba is a special public holiday in Georgia held in honor of the martyrdom of the patron of Georgia, Saint George.
George, a Greek soldier from Cappadocia and a guard of the Roman emperor Diocletian, was sentenced to death for being a Christian. George is one of the most venerated saints in Christianity and is strongly connected to knighthood, warriors and the military. He is believed to have slain a dragon that demanded human sacrifices and often appears in Christian iconography while fighting against the monster.
Contrary to popular belief, Georgia, called Sakartvelo in the Georgian language, wasn’t named after Saint George. The country's name is an anglicization of the word gurj, a deviation of the Persian gurj or gurjān, meaning wolf. Still, Georgians' devotion to Saint George dates back to the early Middle Ages. It is said that there are precisely 365 churches in Georgia named after Saint George, one for each day of the year.
Saint George is believed to be first depicted as a symbol of Georgia in the 12th century, on the seal of King George III. Today, his image is a part of the country's national emblem.
Georgians celebrate their patron twice a year, on May 6 and November 23, but only the latter is a state holiday. According to legend, the first festival in honor of Saint George was started by Saint Nino, believed to be Saint George's cousin.
On Saint George's Day, bells ring in every church across the country and special liturgies are held to seek the saint's favor. Despite commemorating his torturous death, Giorgoba is a joyful celebration spent with friends and families amid feasting, dancing and the singing of traditional songs.
Georgian festivities are some of the most exciting, colorful events of the year, and it's worth taking them into consideration when arranging your tour to the South Caucasus. The joyful atmosphere, combined with natural Georgian hospitality, is a fun way to gain insight into local customs and beliefs.