Georgia Independence Day - Georgia Holidays

Georgia Public Holidays (and their meanings). Georgian Christmas, Georgian New Year, and other Georgia Holidays

Megsy Destinations

Georgia Public Holidays (and their meanings). Sometimes when you live in or visit a destination public holidays can catch you out. Suddenly everything is closed and you’re left wondering “what exactly is today all about anyway?” 
 

Official Georgian Public holidays:

 
1 January – Georgian New Year’s Day
6 January – Georgian Christmas
19 January – Epiphany 
3 March – Mothers’ Day
8 March – Women’s Day
9 April – National Unity Day
Orthodox Easter (Dates Change) 
9 May – Victory Day
12 May – Saint Andrew the First-Called Day
26 May – Georgian Independence Day
28 August – Feast of the Virgin Mary (Mariamoba)
14 October – Svetitskhovloba (Celebration of Svetitskhoveli Cathedral)
23 November – St. George’s Day (Giorgoba)
 
 
 
FYI a Georgian Public Holiday is often accompanied by locals letting off an onslaught of fireworks from their apartments which can freak you out if it’s not something you’ve been warned about in advance. That’s why I put together this article about holidays in Georgia so that you can prepare yourself and more importantly know the significance behind these highly celebrated days.
 

NOTE: I am not a historian nor am I an expert on the history of Georgia and the Orthodox church. I just live here and find it fascinating to learn what I can about my adopted home. If I have made any errors please let me know and I will rectify the mistake asap.

 

Tbilisi Holidays – Georgia Public Holidays

 

1st & 2nd January Georgian New Year Day & Bedoba 

georgian new year - new year tbilisi

Georgian new year – new year Tbilisi

 
New Years Day number one and the day that is actually a Georgia public holiday. This might seem strange to say – but if you’ve ever lived or visited Georgia you’d know that there is also a celebration for Old New Year on the 13th of January as well – but that day is not a public holiday. 
 
Why two Georgian New Year celebrations? Because, according to the Julian calendar, used by the Eastern Orthodox Church, the real New Year falls on January 13, and Georgians call it Old New Year.  (more about that celebration later).
 
The most important celebration however happens on December 31st where families gather to see in the New Year together at midnight and set off a f@#k tonne of fireworks. You’ve never seen a firework celebration until you’ve seen a Georgian New Year Fireworks display!!!  Along with the fireworks, locals celebrate with an abundance of Georgian foods and sweets such as Satsivi, Khachapuri, Churchkhela, and Gozinaki which are all essential elements for the New Year feast.
 
This night is actually considered as the “Georgian Christmas” and not the 25th December like in most Christian countries.
 
How do I explain this best?….
The 25th December is like any other day, shops and restaurants are open and people still go to work. It’s only celebrated on that day by foreigners living in Tbilisi. Most Georgians all gather and open presents on New Year’s Eve, but the ACTUAL date of Christmas in Georgia is the 7th of January……
 
Got it? yep, it’s confusing!
 
Aside from fireworks and feasting, there are some other important traditions that many households follow as well:
 
Mekvle
 
On New Years Day your Mekvle (the first guest who enters the house on New Years Day) will determine the rest of your year. It is believed that the year will be similar to the fortune, joy, and luck that the Mekvle brings. When the Mekvle enters the home they say the following words: “I set my foot here – may the God bless you, My step – is a footprint of an angel…..” – which is accompanied by throwing of sweets, nuts, and fruit in every corner of the room. YAY!
 
As this person is the bringer of good luck and joy to the home the Mekvle is usually chosen in advance (don’t want to leave that to chance!) and it’s their role to wish the best to the family for the year. 
 
This person is also known as the “First Foot” in some other cultures.
 
Bedoba
 
The 2nd of January is also a very important day (but not a Georgian holiday) as the way you spend the day is also believed to determine your year. Called “Bedoba” it stands for “Luck” (especially couples who don’t have a family yet) and on this day everybody tries to do their best and live their life as cheerfully as they can. Negativity is an absolute no-no as it will affect the next 365 days.
 
So if you see someone on January 2nd make sure to smile and wish them well!

georgian christmas - tbilisi christmas

Georgian Christmas – Tbilisi Christmas

7 January – Georgian Christmas

Georgian Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January. This is because the Georgian Orthodox Church uses the old ‘Julian’ calendar for their festivals which is 13 days behind the Gregorian Calendar most other countries use.
 
It is a day for believers to pray, go to church, and light candles. If people choose to stay at home they will often light a candle in the window before midnight and make a wish. Others will go to church and stay there all night and pray.
 

19 January – Epiphany 

Orthodox Christians in Georgia and across the world celebrate the Epiphany on this day. Epiphany marks the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. 
 
In Tbilisi Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II and members of the Holy Synod lead a liturgy at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, and after the liturgy, a water blessing ceremony is held in the yard of the Cathedral, led by Patriarch Ilia II.
 
Those who attend are spritz’d with holy water, which they can also take home and drink during the year. It is believed that in times of sickness or trouble, followers of the church can drink the water to ease their discomfort.
 
Traditions from this day include singing, chalking the door to bless your home, eating Three Kings Cake, as well as attending church services.
 
It is also customary for some Orthodox Christians to remove their Christmas decorations on Epiphany Eve (Twelfth Night). According to the first tradition, those who fail to remember to remove their Christmas decorations on Epiphany Eve must leave them untouched until Candlemas, which is on the 2nd February, where they get a second opportunity to take them down; failure to observe this custom is considered inauspicious.
 
Many people don’t actually follow this tradition anymore – but I thought it was interesting
 
If you are in Batumi the Black Sea is traditionally blessed by the Archbishop of Batumi and Lazeti, Dimitry. Hundreds of people brave the cold Batumi waters and take part in the ceremony commonly known as the Epiphany dip.
 
It is believed the water of the Epiphany is full of healing properties and can purify a believer of their sins.
 
 
 

Book a tour with our Georgian Food & Wine Tours Partner. Small group tours with a focus on cultural history and truly authentic, independent food & wine experiences. Learn More Here.

If you plan to spend more than 6 months in Georgia, then our partner ExpatHub.GE can help you open your business in Georgia, lower your tax bill, get residency and re-locate. Learn More At ExpatHub.GE

 

 

Georgia public holidays - Georgia holidays

Georgia public holidays – Georgia holidays

3 March – Mothers’ Day

Every year on 3 March Georgia celebrates a special day honouring mothers and pregnant women.
 
Just like the celebration around the world, children gift their mother’s flowers and cards to tell them how important and loved they are.
 
Celebrating Mother’s Day in Georgia was established at the suggestion of the country’s first president Zviad Gamsakhurdia. So it is a fairly new holiday celebration and public holiday in Georgia.
 

8 March – Women’s Day

International women’s day is celebrated around the world – but in Georgia, it’s a public holiday (yay)
 
International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Marked annually on March 8th, International Women’s Day (IWD) is one of the most important days of the year to:
  • celebrate women’s achievements
  • raise awareness about women’s equality
  • lobby for accelerated gender parity
  • fundraise for female-focused charities
 
InternationalWomen’sDay.com tells us that “the first Women’s Day was organized in 1909 in New York by the Socialist Party of America.
 
In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named Clara Zetkin (Leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs – and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament – greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval, and thus International Women’s Day was the result.
 
1917
On the last Sunday of February, Russian women began a strike for “bread and peace” in response to the death of over 2 million Russian soldiers in World War 1. Opposed by political leaders, the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. The date the women’s strike commenced was Sunday, February 23 on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia. This day on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere was March 8.”
 
International Women’s Day has remained an important day in Georgia and globally even after the collapse of the Soviet Union. There are about 20 countries that have IWD as a public holiday and in Georgia, on this day men are expected to shower every woman they know with flowers, gifts, and compliments. So men reading this…..don’t forget!!! 
 

9 April – National Unity Day

Although National unity Day is a public holiday – it is however a somber one. Today is the day that a peaceful anti-soviet demonstration in 1989 turned into a massacre where 21 people lost their lives and hundreds of other activists were injured. The day is commemorated with the laying of flowers and lighting of candles at the April 9 memorial in front of the Georgian Parliament Building. 

If you would like to read more about the massacre you can read the full account on Wikipedia here

 

Orthodox Easter (Dates Change – Friday and Monday are public holidays) 

Georgia public holidays - Orthodox Easter Georgia

Georgia public holidays – Orthodox Easter Georgia

Easter is a popular holiday around the world and this is also true in Georgia. But like other holidays that involve the church and its traditions, you’ll find that the Orthodox Easter falls on a different date. I actually looked at why Easter moves from year to year and it is based on a lot of things – but mostly it’s based on the moon’s lunar cycles, add on top of that the Julian calendar that the Orthodox faith observes and you get one confused writer (ME). 

If you’d like to read about the different Easter dates and why –   click here

In Georgia other than going to church there are a few traditions that you might see locals following:

Growing Easter Grass – One week before Easter Sunday locals will start to grow grass on a plate in their homes. Green grass signifies the new life Jesus Christ gave after his resurrection.

Red Eggs – known as Red Friday (Public Holiday) on this day households will dyes eggs red before the sun goes down for the day. Madder roots or red onion peels are used to create the red dye. (Madder or Rubia tinctorum is a plant that is commonly used to create dyes). It’s believed that eggs symbolize the rebirth of Christ and eternal life.

This tradition is followed on Easter Sunday with the cracking of the eggs. Each family member chooses what they think is the strongest egg by slightly rapping it on their teeth. Then after everyone in the family chooses their egg they start cracking them by tapping both sides of the egg onto each other’s eggs. Whoever has the egg that lasts the longest without any cracks is the winner.

Easter Meal – of course, a holiday in Georgia wouldn’t be complete without an incredible meal. On this day families will serve chakapuli and paska cake. 

Paying Their Respect to The Dead – Monday (Public Holiday) is the traditional day to head to the cemetery and pay respect to relatives who have passed on. This is not a sad occasion as Easter signifies the resurrection of Christ and Georgians celebrate this with all their family – living and dead. It’s customary to give a toast in respect of the deceased and to pour some of the wine on the grave (knocking over a goblet), to show that you are not alone in the afterlife.  

 

9 May – Victory Day

Tbilisi Holidays - Georgia Holidays

Victory Day – Tbilisi Holidays – Georgia Holidays

Victory Day is the day we celebrate the WWII Victory over Nazi Germany. It is commemorated by laying a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Vake Park in Tbilisi to honor elderly veterans and those who gave their lives during the war. 

The German surrender was actually signed in Berlin late at night on May 8, 1945, but due to the time difference, it was already May 9 in Moscow and therefore Victory Day was celebrated throughout the Soviet Union on the 9th. While some former Soviet countries have changed the date to the 8th this tradition has continued in Georgia on the 9th of May.

 

12 May – Saint Andrew the First-Called Day

May 12th marks the day that the Apostle Andrew first arrived in Georgia, in what is the present-day Ajara region. St. Andrew was the first of the apostles of Jesus Christ and is considered the first preacher of the Christian faith in Georgia who was told to come to this region by the Virgin Mary. The Orthodox Church regards him as the founder of the Georgian church.

There is a large statue that you can visit commemorating St Andrew that stands in front of a waterfall near the village of Sarpi in the Ajara region. The statue is a favorite with wedding parties as it is believed to bring newly married couples good luck.

The Georgian Orthodox Church marks the day of Saint Andrew the First-Called twice a year – on May 12th and on December 13th but the December date is not a public holiday.

 

 

Georgia Independence Day - Georgia Holidays

Georgia Holidays – Georgia Independence Day

26 May – Independence Day

Independence Day is an annual public holiday in Georgia. It commemorates the 26 May 1918 adoption of the Act of Independence, which established the Democratic Republic of Georgia after the Russian Revolution of 1917.
 
Although Georgia’s freedom was short-lived and was sadly re-invaded and taken over by Russian forces in 1921 and was part of the Soviet Union until its collapse. But during the Soviet era, it was clandestinely celebrated by Georgian’s opposed to the Communist regime.
 
After Georgia’s declaration of independence on 9 April 1991, the day was re-established as Georgia’s independence day and a public holiday for all.
 

 

28 August – Feast of the Virgin Mary

Also known as Mariamoba, or in Western Churches, the feast is known as the Assumption of Mary. It is a feast for the mother of Jesus Christ. This feast commemorates two events – the departure of Mary from this life and the assumption of her body into heaven.
 
On this day special ceremonies and religious services are held around the country.  Many Georgians will go to church to light candles and pray. It is also a popular holiday to visit friends and family. 
 
Georgia public holidays - Svetitskhovloba - Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

Georgia public holidays – Svetitskhovloba – Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

14 October – Svetitskhovloba (Celebration of Svetitskhoveli Cathedral)

 
The Orthodox Christians in Georgia celebrate Mtskhetoba-Svetitskhovloba, a celebration of Georgia’s ancient capital city (Mtskheta) and its legendary cathedral.
 
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is known as the burial site of Christ’s mantle, which is the robe that he is said to have worn either during or before his crucifixion. The cathedral also is said to stand on the site chosen by Saint Nino for the first Georgian Church. The original building was destroyed during one of many wars that happened in the region, but the current Svetitskhoveli was built in the first half of the 11th century….still pretty impressive.
 
Today, Svetitskhoveli cathedral is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of a complex of Mtskheta historical monuments.
 
On the day of Svetitskhovloba, the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia comes to the cathedral to conduct a special ceremony, including a mass baptism. A series of concerts and cultural performances are also held, where people dress up in traditional costumes to dance, sing and enjoy delicious Georgian cuisine.
 
Tbilisi holidays - St. George's Day

Tbilisi holidays – St. George’s Day

23 November – St. George’s Day

St. George’s Day or Giorgoba in Georgian is a holiday that pays tribute to St George and the torture he suffered for refusing to make sacrifices to the Roman gods. The day may also be known as ‘The Breaking on the Wheel of Holy Great-martyr George’ in other places around the world.
 
St. George was a cavalryman in the Roman army at Lydda, now in modern-day Israel. He was a Christian at a time when it was illegal to be so by order of the emperor Diocletian. In 303 the Emperor declared that all Christian soldiers in the army should be arrested and all remaining soldiers must offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods. George defied the Emperor by publicly claiming himself to be a Christian and refusing to follow the Emperors’ orders and was executed for his actions.
 
George was decapitated before Nicomedia’s city wall, on April 23rd 303. (Nicomedia was an ancient Greek city located in what is now Turkey.)
 
In Georgia, he is cherished as he is believed to be the special protector of the nation and is even said to have appeared and fought alongside Georgian soldiers in key battles in the country’s history.
 
He’s kind of a big heal here and the majority of Georgian churches were built in his honour.
 
You might have also noticed the state emblem of Georgia displays Saint George in the form of a man riding a horse who is slaying a dragon. And Giorgi, deriving from the name George, is also the most common male name in Georgia. It is also believed the country’s name Georgia is associated with Saint George. He’s pretty popular here! 
 
According to tradition, this day was established by St. Nino who was a relative of George and retold his story of bravery and martyrdom to the local people. It is believed she greatly admired him and directed the people she had converted to Christianity to cherish him as their special protector.
 
Georgia Holidays, Tbilisi Holiday Public Holiday Georgia

So there you have it – all of the Georgian Public Holidays and their meanings. If you happen to be visiting or living in Georgia during one of these celebrations you now have more of an appreciation of the holiday and the traditions that go along with it. Georgian’s are very proud of their traditions and showing that you know a little about their culture will absolutely make their day! 

 

Book a tour with our Georgian Food & Wine Tours Partner. Small group tours with a focus on cultural history and truly authentic, independent food & wine experiences. Learn More Here.

If you plan to spend more than 6 months in Georgia, then our partner ExpatHub.GE can help you open your business in Georgia, lower your tax bill, get residency and re-locate. Learn More At ExpatHub.GE