I was not prepared for Georgian New Year.

This, despite the fact that so many Georgian friends and co-workers, PCVs and PC staff members have been talking about the holiday since the plane landed back in April. How you eat all day. Drink all day. Go to all of your friends’ and families’ houses. Eat. Drink. Repeat.

Repeat.

It’s one thing to hear about it, but quite another to experience it. Yesterday — Saturday, New Year’s Day — we started eating and drinking wine at 11 AM and continued non-stop until 7 PM. That’s when McKinze and I bowed out, although the party continued. It’s actually still going on now, in the other room, a day later… but my American body can’t hack that kind of intensity two days in a row.

Don’t get me wrong — it was a lovely day. Everywhere we went (around 10 houses, I think?) we were greeted warmly with a dining table completely set and piled high with traditional Georgian foods. The women would scurry into the kitchen to heat up whatever needed to be served hot (tolma, meat blini, mtsvadi) while the men would get down to business with the first of what would be 3 or 4 (or more) toasts. We would eat a little, talk a little, then, all of a sudden, we would all get up and leave. On to the next house.

Repeat.

I don’t have any pictures from this, mostly because I felt uncomfortable whipping out a camera at all these peoples’ houses, like they were on display and I was “capturing them in their natural habitat,” as McKinze put it. But I do have pictures of our pretty awesome New Year’s Eve.

-- Things got off to a slow start, as apparently it is tradition to not start the festivities until close to midnight. --

-- The table was packed with Georgian delicacies. This is the first "layer." Once the hot food came out, we simply stacked it on top of these dishes. --

-- There were delicious homemade cakes and pastries... --

-- Candied fruits, nuts and liquer... --

-- Various salads, chicken, fish and cow brains (which you dip in an incredibly spicy mustard that I didn't even know existed in this country til this dinner!). --

-- Around 11 o'clock we wandered down to the park, where there was going to be a concert. Twenty minutes later we were back home, due in equal part to the rain and the little boys throwing fireworks at people. --

-- As midnight approached, we counted down with our host parents and did a toast to ring in the new year. --

-- Our host mom had been waiting anxiously all night for her daughter to Skype from the US (where she lives as an exchange student), and shortly after midnight she called. --

-- Our host brother's friend (on the right) was our "first footer" - the first person to enter the house in the New Year, and the bringer of (hopefully) good fortune for the coming year. As our host mom said, "he's always been a good boy - now we'll see how good his feet are." --

Finally, from the balcony on the back of our house, we watched one of the most impressive and mesmerizing fireworks displays I’ve ever seen. Not that the town put on such an amazing display (although they did their part)… it was amazing because of the hundreds and hundreds of individual families launching their own fireworks all over the city, all at the same time. As I said to McKinze, the sky looked like those CNN videos from the first stages of the Gulf War.

Pictures don’t do it justice, but maybe the video below captures the experience a little better:

McKinze and I are so glad we were here to share in the experience of what many Georgians consider to be the most important holiday of the year. It was fantastic, and we’re already looking forward to next year.

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