Friday, January 18, 2008

Celebrate Good Times C'mon... again and again...

Georgians are not ones to shy away from celebration. Supras break out at a moments notice and there are a plethora of saints’ days to celebrate as well. In my village I find there is virtually nothing they won't celebrate. And thanks to the old calendar they used to follow, there’s also two Christmas’ and New Years. I missed the modern calendar ones since I was in Paris, but I made it back in time to celebrate the old calendar ones.

On Christmas Eve I went to church with my host mother. Snow was falling heavily and I envied the women who have to cover their heads in church. Men must take off their caps so I was freezing in the unheated church, and had to find warmth from the candles we all held.

Before that, the neighborhood children roamed the streets in small groups, knocking on doors and singing a single carol announcing the birth of Christ. For their singing, the families rewarded them with candies, fruit and small amounts of money. It's like Halloween with Jesus. At my house the boys also received a shot of liquor for their efforts. Drink up boys. It’s mighty cold out there.

When the clock struck 12 on New Years, my village erupted in fireworks and gunfire. In my room, the neighboring town of Bagdati sounded a lot more like Baghdad. I huddled in my bed while the sky filled with bullets and bottle rockets. The snow covered vineyards and hills lit up as I pulled the covers up and watched my breath turn to steam amidst the coldest winter Georgia’s (allegedly) seen in 70 years.

Some two weeks prior, my neighbors celebrated the modern calendar’s Christmas and New Years with wine filled supras and they congratulated everyone on the year to come and wished them the best. And when the old calendar New Year came, well... they did it again. I was just walking home from the village center, minding my own business, planning to take a nap, when I was suddenly dragged into a neighbor’s house that had already seen hours of revelry. I raised glass after glass to our friends, our families, our neighbors, our siblings... and on we went. Everyone deserves a good year and we toasted to them all. I slunk out far earlier than they wanted, and I’m sure they’re still busy toasting even now. When it’s this cold and the heat only comes from a wood stove in a distant room, the wine is about all one has to keep one warm.

And unlike America, where people make New Years resolutions they never carry out to diet, reduce their drinking, stop going out to parties so much, the people in my village appear to be doing the opposite, and with far greater success than the Americans and their resolutions. It seems in my village they've resolved to celebrate much more. More food, more wine, more singing and dancing, more general merriment. So the supras keep coming and there's simply no escaping it.

It just never seems to have an end. Men block my exit at the local store until I've toasted to their friends and families and the happiness and health they will have in the New Year. The cops pull up in front of my house and haul me off for a supra at a cousin's friend's neighbor's house where you toast the New Year some more. And then there's the distant village reached by snow covered roads where you get to toast again. Sometimes there are breaks. And sometimes one might attend three supras in a day. The New Year is still being celebrated. And it's January 18th. Will we still be celebrating this at Easter?


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