I promised you a big, juicy Easter post so here it is!
Easter celebrations start the Sunday before Easter, so this year it fell on the same date as Easter in the UK. Not that they ‘celebrate’ as such, but the streets are full of old ladies selling this stuff in the photo above called bza. It’s a sort of shrub but I have no idea what it’s called in English (I think possibly olive leaves?), which is symbolic of when Jesus entered Jerusalem and they carried and scattered palm leaves.
Then there are a few days where everyone is at work as normal, until Thursday when there’s a day off to commemorate the 9th April. Shota and I spent this time exploring and found a gorgeous area we hadn’t seen before near Tbilisi Sea.
We mostly relaxed that day, and enjoyed a drizzly walk around town and through some parks. Sometimes it’s necessary to just stop and enjoy. However relaxed I was, I still found myself nervous about the following through days since we hadn’t prepared much food-wise and were short on money after furnishing the flat at the beginning of the month.
Friday came, and so did Shota’s sister, nephews and dad. Our place is tiny so it was a bit of a squeeze but it was really refreshing having everyone round at the same time. If not completely chaotic thanks to two troublesome boys!
Friday and Saturday was spent mostly inside, preparing meals and chatting. The weather was awful and cold (I miss British springtime!) and no-one really fancied venturing outside. We did manage to get to the bazaar for some emergency Easter food though, so there will be a post to follow about that sometime this week too.
Easter is the biggest religious holiday in Georgia, and celebrated much more seriously than Christmas (which falls on January 7th). On Easter Sunday we had breakfast with some boiled eggs which had been dyed red (we wanted to do this on Friday which is when you’re supposed to but Shota’s bebo sent loads from Imereti) and Paska, a sweet bread full of all the dairy things you weren’t supposed to eat over lent!
Pretty much everything was made by Shota’s sister, I don’t know how she did it but she was literally whipping out huge dishes all day. I tried to help but we can’t communicate well and my Georgian is horrific, so ended up using this time to finish that essay instead (yay!). Some of the dishes you can see above are espinakhi, vegetarian chakapuli (the link is to a meat recipe but it’s basically just potato instead of lamb), and a herby fish stew. I don’t know what the fish was, it was locally caught in Kakheti from their lake. I didn’t have any because I can only stomach fish when doused in salt and vinegar and with greasy chips, but Shota said it was nice.
On top of this, there was a chicken bouillon (again, I didn’t have any but everyone else enjoyed), masses of khachapuri and lobiani, various salads (by salad I mean various canned peas, sweetcorn and potato mixed in with mayo…), homemade crazy-mayo pizza (this was a weird one to experience I have to say), plenty of chocolates, breads and plavi, which is a sweet rice pudding mixed in with dried fruits, nuts and gummy sweets.
Phew! Now on to Sunday…
Sunday and Monday are the days everyone prepares for. Monday is generally the day when people go to the cemeteries to celebrate with their late loved ones but some people go on Sunday too. We decided Sunday was a better idea after looking at the weather forecast, so we set off on foot to wade through the mud and dodge the cars on our way to Shota’s mum’s grave.
It’s obviously a sombre experience but I couldn’t help but feel (and Shota confirmed he felt the same last night too) that’s it’s sort of another excuse for people to drink and be unnecessarily loud. It’s a nice thing, to sit with your family and friends around a loved ones’ grave and toast to them and each other and enjoy each other’s company, even more so when you tip some of your wine onto the grave and roll some eggs onto it so everyone can join in the fun.
It wasn’t so much this year in Tbilisi because it was quieter and is a much bigger place, but last year in Chiatura people always approach you and say a toast for your late family members and friends and you share wine and give them some food. This results in people getting blinding drunk and fighting (yes there was a full-on fist fight at the cemetery last year) and the atmosphere quickly turns from pleasant to plain sad.
We left after about an hour since it was cold and wanted to get home before the rain. Just as we sat down and got comfy, Shota’s cousin and uncle came and wanted to go to visit the cemetery too. I didn’t realise until this year that people sort of do a tour of the cemeteries if their family and friends are buried in different places, I thought you just stay at one.
Anyway, we ventured back up – this time in a car – and did the same thing quite quickly before heading to another cemetery in Saburtalo where we met Shota’s cousin’s wife and their beautiful little girl, Mariam. They have another baby due at the end of April which is exciting!
We were slightly longer at this cemetery and Shota’s uncle said the various toasts and stories expected in such occasions. It always feels quite formal to me to do toasts to I try to listen and understand as much as possible even though I barely speak the language. So it’s always surprising when people sort of go off and do their own thing, or are scrolling through Facebook or smoking, especially at a cemetery.
I just realised I should be saying graveyard since I’m English but whatever, seems I’m changing here…
That evening was spent at Shota’s other cousin’s house where his wife and mother (see this post about supras…) had prepared a supra. They’re lovely people but I can’t say I enjoyed myself. There’s only so much food I can eat in one day without turning green, and the smoking and crazy driving between meals didn’t help that. That, and I feel awfully patronised sometimes when people think I’m stupid as well as foreign.
Twelve people, several children and a loud television blaring over each other was quite overwhelming. Even Shota was a bit dazed and we couldn’t hear each other for him to translate to me. We managed to leave after about two hours (quite a short time considering) but didn’t get home until late that evening which meant we missed out on spending more time with Shota’s sister and nephews since they left for Kakheti the following day.
Feeling suitably exhausted and socially-debauched, Monday was a bit of a blur for me. We left Shota’s dad to enjoy some Stephen Hawking documentaries in Russian when Shota’s friend picked us up (I didn’t know why or where we were headed but whatever).
We decided against going to the cemetery again when we saw the traffic stretching as far as the eye could see, so visited the flat and did some fruit and veg shopping instead. I was more than ready to start my detox and vegan diet after all of this! I’ve started today but I have to say I’m feeling rather queasy, so I think I’ve been put off dairy enough anyway.
Monday was also the 8th anniversary of my mum’s death, which I’m finding quite hard to wrap my head around this year. I turn 21 on Friday, and can’t help but wonder how different everything would be if she was here to celebrate with me. We brought a small plant (the first image in this post) and spent the evening relaxing and chatting with Shota’s dad.
He left for Chiatura early this morning so I’ve (rather excitedly) been re-organising myself and enjoying silence all day. I’ve had some lessons and should leave for the bus in a minute actually to go and teach a little girl, so I should wrap this up!
I hope you’ve enjoyed! Have a lovely day wherever you are!