Easter is the most significant religious holiday for the Eastern Orthodox Church, and it’s festively celebrated in Georgia. Over 80% of the Georgian population self-identifies as Eastern Orthodox.
The week before Easter, over 10,000 churches across the country hold special religious ceremonies each day leading up to Sunday. The most important days are Maundy Thursday, which commemorates the Last Supper, and Good Friday.
On Maundy Thursday, the leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church (Ilia II) conducts the Washing of the Feet Ceremony. After the evening bell rings, he washes the feet of 12 disciples just like Christ did.
On Good Friday, Georgians remember the crucifixion of Christ. A ritual is conducted that commemorates the Deposition of Christ with special prayers read about his martyrdom and the choir singing verses by Davit Guramishvili. 4 days of official holiday follow Good Friday.
Families usually paint eggs red as a sign of Christ’s blood, rebirth, and new life. They also bake a traditional sweet Easter bread known as paska.
This is usually the strictest day of Lent as well. The most devout Orthodox Christians might eat nothing all day or just bread and water.
On Holy Saturday evening, everyone goes to church. The services are very crowded and must start after nightfall and end before dawn. Many will attend the ceremony held by Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia, Ilia II, in Tbilisi.
On Orthodox Easter, people in Georgia greet each other with the phrase, “Christ is risen” (Kriste aghdga!) to which others will respond, “He is risen indeed” (Cheshmaritad aghdga!).
In the morning, they will visit the graves of loved ones bringing wine and food. They roll red eggs across the graves and partake in egg fighting. This is a game where 2 people tap eggs against each other, trying to crack their opponent’s egg but not their own.
Then, it’s back home for lunch. The doors of all houses are open and families receive guests while feasting on traditional Georgian dishes.