Christmas all around the world is celebrated on the 25th of December. In this respect, the small country of Georgia stands out. Georgians celebrate the festival on the 7th of January. Why, you ask? The reason is that the Georgian Orthodox Church, much like those in Russia and Ethiopia, use the old 'Julian' calendar for their festivals.
However, no reduction in merry making is observed in the citizens. On the day of Christmas, many people participate in a parade in the streets – 'Alilo'. They dress up in new, special clothes for Christmas. While some are seen enveloped in the Georgian flag, others might be dressed as characters of the Christmas tales. An added incentive for children to take part in the Alilo is that they are often rewarded with sweets.
Expectedly, many carols are sung throughout the country. Many of these, sung during the Alilo often have the following words: "on 25th December, Christ was born in Bethlehem".
Georgian tradition harbours its very own Christmas tree, called the 'Chichilaki'. Dried hazelnut or walnut branches, are cleaned and shaved into long twisty, curly strips to form a small little tree. Word goes around, and many find the look of the tree creepily similar to that of the long, white, curly beard of St.Basil the Great. The tree is decorated with small fruits and sweets and, by tradition is burnt one day before the Georgian Orthodox Epiphany, i.e, the 19th of January. This is a symbolic practice, meant to mark the end of all the trroubles of the year that was. Nevertheless, the supposedly 'Western' Christmas Tree is also quite popular.
Traditionally, "Tovlis Papa" or "Tovlis Babua" (in western Georgian dialect) brings to the children, their presents on New Year's Eve. Tovlis Papa, the Georgian citizens' "Grandfather Snow" is expected to be wearing all white everything (including a hat). He also wears a white, native 'nabadi', a heavy, warm cloak made of the white sheep's wool.
Legend says that on New Year's Eve he descends from his home in the Caucasian mountains tours Georgia delivering treats and sweets to all the children in the country. The children too give their snowy gift guy a little something. They leave out "Churchkhela" a mouth watering dish made of walnuts and grape juice, in the shape of a sausage, for him. Santa is also often confused with "Tovlis Papa", (and although they sound pretty much the same minus the attire) ; many, strongly believe that their Grandfather Snow is only one of a kind.