Today Georgians have a special tradition. It’s the Day of Luck, or “Bedoba”. Whatever you do today is how you’ll spend the rest of the year—though often in a more symbolic day. It’s sort of like a more concrete set of resolutions: You make your resolutions, do them all today, and by luck they’ll stick goshdangit.
Georgians on this day tend to stuff themselves with sweets, especially gozinaki, a kind of walnut or hazelnut brittle. It doesn’t mean that you’ll be eating sweets for the rest of the year, but rather that the rest of your year will be sweet. Likewise, you should do some work today to have a productive year, spend time with your loved ones to have a loving year, and so on.
Last year for instance, my wife and I spent Bedoba in Munich with a 10-hour layover. As a couple of Christmas markets were still open, we spent the day sipping hot wine, eating sausages and schnitzel, and visiting T.K. Maxx for some cheap, decent quality clothes. Subsequently our year was full of wine drinking, Teo got sent to Germany twice on work, and we got a baby (not sure where that fits in).
Sipping on mulled wine in Munich, circa 2019
And that’s why today I’m writing this blog—I’m hoping this year will be productive. I’ve got lots of professional plans, from writing to music, not to mention raising a newborn baby, so my plate is pretty full. That means today I’ll be writing a blog, working on my upcoming Facetious Guide to Czechia, writing a bit on a short story, working on a song, practicing accordion, and last but not least take my baby to a Christmas market.
Last year's Tbilisi Christmas market (2018-2019)
Which leads me to another thing about Georgian culture. The brand of Orthodox Christianity here still uses the old Julian calendar, the same one we used to use until a pope changed it in the 1600s (Pope Gregory, hence the “Gregorian Calendar”). As the Julian calendar didn’t account for leap years, Christmas kept drifting off, and everyone realized it was going to eventually be a summertime festival rather than a winter solstice festival. So Pope Gregory added a day every four years (except on years with multiples of ten or something like that) and fixed it. By that time though, the One Catholic and Orthodox Faith had long since splintered in pretty solid and unfixable ways, so the Eastern Christians (Orthodox) still looked at this new calendar fairly skeptically. Eventually they’d add a leap day themselves to fix it, but not for another couple of hundred years, which meant the Orthodox liturgical calendar is quite a few days off from the Gregorian calendar, and their December 25 is our January 7. To add to the confusion, the Soviets had changed the calendar of every day use to the Gregorian calendar, aligning it with the rest of the secular world. So even though Georgians might refer to Christmas as January 7, it’s actually December 25 on their religious calendar (but still the 7 on their secular political calendar).
At the Tbilisi Christmas market (2018-2019), smoke from barbecue
All that to say that Georgians—who have long seen themselves as spanning Eastern and Western culture in a variety of senses—have found double the reason to party. They’re beginning to embrace the rampant commercialism and materialism that goes along with Western Christmas, which includes the standard Germanic Christmas carols at the beginning of November to Instagram moments with an alien creature known as the Santa Claus (traditionally they have a guy named Tovlis Babua, or Grandaddy Snow, who does the same thing but usually dresses in blue and wears a traditional Svan hat). So now Western Christmas is a Georgian reason to party, and it kind of opens up their Christmas season. Their newly styled Christmas/New Years markets start on December 25, with a Christmas/New Years tree lighting, and they go through the New Years and don’t end until Georgian Christmas on January 7. Which actually acts quite nicely and perfectly for tourism to boot and that for Westerners, even the New Years “season” is quite festive.
Tovlis Babua is quite a different guy than Santa...
Traditional yarn toys for sale. Krokodil Gena from the Cheburashka children's show pictured
So guys, make your resolutions. And plant them in the ground today on Bedoba by doing them and getting off to a proper start. May your year be sweet and full of love!