Published: April 20th 2012April 20th 2012
The red eggs symbolize the blood of Christ.
No bunny rabbits, hot cross buns or chocolate eggs this year ...instead we celebrated Easter in the Georgian spirit. Like everything else in Georgia, Easter is celebrated in a uniquely Georgian way. When explaining to our family, teachers and classes how Easter is celebrated in Australia the conversation almost always ended in strange looks. A bunny rabbit, chocolate eggs, egg hunts; I guess it does all sound a bit ridiculous.
The festivities kicked off on Thursday with Chiakokonoba. Families gathered wood in the street, started fires and jumped over it (or through it) three times. According to the legend, this action purifies the soul of evil spirit. Our village really got into the celebrations with fires being lit down the main street and through the winding passages. We all took turns at running through the fire which sounds a lot more dangerous than it really was. The children down our street enjoyed cheering on the foreign English teachers while I’m sure their parents thought we were both a little crazy. Aaron had already had a fair bit of cha cha by this point and was probably highly flammable.
The following day, “Red Friday” or as
Mikaela with children from our village.
we know it “Good Friday” was spent dying eggs red and making special Easter cake called paska (which tastes very similar to hot cross buns). The dying process involved boiling the eggs in a mixture of rhubarb and red onion skins, which were passed on to other families to use for their eggs. The red eggs symbolize the blood of Christ and are placed on green wheat grass on Easter Sunday, which symbolizes new life, resurrection, and eternity. As for the paska, we made enough for a small army and have been eating it for days now (our grandma is the queen of bulk cooking).
On Saturday night our host brothers attended church until late Easter morning after which we enjoyed the traditional Easter feast of Paska and red eggs to break the 40 day fast (no animal products can be consumed). All the women in our family follow this tradition, which in essence means we have been eating beans, potatoes and bread for EVERY meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) for the past 40 days.
Before eating the red eggs it is tradition to try and crack each others eggs using the top of
your own egg, if an egg does not break when others try and crack it then it is deemed a champion egg. Being the expert that I am in egg cracking, my egg was deemed champion which means I will have a year of luck.
The major difference in Georgian Easter is the focus on the dead, it is a time to remember family members who have passed. On Easter Sunday and Monday, churches conduct a special prayer in memory of the deceased, and families bring red eggs, paska and flowers to the graves of their relatives. Georgian ceremonies are set up with built in tables and chairs around grave sites where families enjoy Easter supras in honour of their dead. We trotted along with our family as they showed us the graves of their parents, grandparents and aunties and uncles. The entire village was out in force and it was actually quite a nice experience.
On Easter Monday it was time to go to the nearby village of Velicike where our host grandma’s sister and family live, why?? For a celebration of course. Nine of us piled into the opeli which was packed
high with apples, bread, and paska. On our way out of the village our host father drove the car off road and stopped at the shack where the families sheep are kept overnight. The two boys jumped out of the car, entered the shack and two minutes later returned with a sheep. We found this interesting until it hit us; he was going to be our meal later that day. Its legs were promptly tied and it was thrown in the boot to its clear disgust. Throughout the entire trip the music was drowned out by the consistent Baaa Baaa Baaaing coming from the boot. Aaron and I found this extremely comical however for the rest of the family this was completely normal. While in Velicike we enjoyed a delicious supra with some very fresh lamb. We also visited the grave sights of our host grandmother’s parents and noticed gypsy children collecting up the eggs and paska families were leaving at the graves. We questioned our brothers about this and they simply said they had no food at home and were hungry. We found this interesting as they were not angry at them or did not even see as rude
Putting the paska into the oven.
rather just a fact of life. They did however say that they were not seen as Georgians by the community.
Tomorrow we say goodbye to Georgia for a week while we travel to Turkey to celebrate ANZAC day, being so close we decided it was the perfect time to experience this once and a life time experience.
There are more photos below