The end of the year is a time for celebration across the world. But in Tbilisi, the historic Georgian capital, the festive period lasts well into January because of orthodox traditions.
Because of this, it’s the perfect place to prolong the magic of Christmas and the New Year festivities. So, if you’re not ready to say goodbye to magical lights, seasonal street food, and the sound of carols in the streets, Tbilisi could be your ideal winter escape.
The Christmas markets in Tbilisi have a distinctly European feel – which is excellent news for fans wanting to try something a bit different from the obvious choices. Best of all, they last until mid-January, giving visitors plenty of time to indulge.
There are multiple pop-up markets to try around the city, but the most popular are at Orbeliani Square and Republic Square. With handcrafted souvenirs, street performances, and street food on offer, it’s easy to see why this is so popular.
Lighting up the darkest months of the year is something Tbilisi takes pride in, and the city is adorned with beautiful Christmas light displays throughout December and January. Each year is an opportunity to outdo the last with mesmerizing illuminations. Displays differ in each neighborhood with Rustaveli Avenue and Orbeliani Square featuring the most extravagant. You can spot starry nights, snowfall decorations, and Christmas characters hanging depending on where you look. The 2019/20 theme of Rustaveli Avenue was outer space, and the area was transformed; showcasing our galaxy and solar system (including planets, the sun, and meteor showers).
Additionally, the traditional Centerpiece Tree – the largest in the city – is lit to celebrate the Christmas period, an event observed by the whole city. This stunning tree is situated on Republic Square.
The New Year is such an important time for Georgians that they celebrate it twice. Once, on the 31st of December, and a second time on January 14th. This marks the ‘Old New Year’ and allows a more casual celebration in adherence with the Julian calendar.
First Republic Square is the site of the larger party on the 31st, with a New Year Gala concert, which brings together hundreds of artists, to celebrate the new year. The countdown to the start of a new year is marked with a spectacular fireworks display.
One of the most charming aspects of Georgian New Year is the tradition of predicting your fate for the coming year on January 2nd. It’s believed that this day sets the tone for your luck throughout the year, so many people spend the day as happy and cheerful as possible to usher in 365 days of food fortune. For extra luck, the first person who enters a home that day has the power to improve the fate of the residents - but only if they bring various candies - for a sweet and plentiful year.
Many people spend the day as happy and cheerful as possible to usher in 365 days of food fortune.
Perhaps the most delicious part of the Christmas and New Years’ celebrations is the Holiday Feast, which is one of the most important meals of the year for Georgians. Make sure you try the plethora of traditional dishes on offer, especially Turkey in walnut sauce (Satsivi) and walnut and honey candies (gozikak’i).
Experience one of the most festive places to spend Christmas and the New Year, now just three to four and a half hours from most major European cities.
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