Life in Georgia - Party Time!
Sales of NO HARM DONE are continuing to build and I’m very grateful for all the positive feedback and reviews on Amazon and social media. Thanks once again to everyone who has bought a copy. Many readers have said that they are looking forward to the next Ramaz Donadze adventure and I’m working on that now in the hope of publishing around July next year.
As mentioned in my last post, consistent feedback from readers is that they would like to know more about the country of Georgia—but written from my perspective as a Scotsman working and living in the country. My last post covered geography and recent history—this time it’s about how Georgians socialise and come together at supras for parties and life events such as weddings and funerals, many of which I was privileged to have attended.
The Georgian term supra translates as table-cloth but it really refers to a feast at which huge volumes of food are offered, but only a relatively small amount eaten. Supras vary depending on the occasion being marked e.g. a supra held following a funeral will be sombre with guests reflecting on the life and qualities of the deceased. Corporate functions are usually fun but, because the bosses are present, tend to be quite tame compared to private events such as wedding parties. Fights are not unusual but, although huge amounts of alcohol are consumed, men are expected to behave with decorum and women should never get drunk.
Supras are presided over by the tamada, who may appoint deputies to individual tables if it is a large gathering. The tamada is a toast master and more. He is chosen by the guests or appointed by the host. Certain individuals are known to be excellent tamadas, either because of the deep insights they can bring to their toasts or because they are good at keeping the fun going. Sometimes they can do both.
As the meal progresses, the tamada will propose toasts on a variety of topics, but usually including the wish for peace between nations, friendship, family and remembering people who have passed away. Individuals at the table are often toasted, their qualities as friends and human beings extolled. The tamada’s deliberations are listened to carefully and wine or vodka is then drunk to the salutation gaumarjos, which translates roughly as victory to you. Individuals may then stand and add to the tamada’s toast, expanding on the theme or providing their own perspective, with more wine or vodka being drunk. Toasts on different themes may be offered by individuals but it is good manners to ask the tamada’s permission first.
A supra held to mark me leaving Supsa Terminal to work in Tbilisi. Note image on the right showing plates stacked three-high when everyone had finished eating!
As well as following a toast master’s role, the tamada also supervises the guests sitting around the table, perhaps encouraging reticent individuals to drink more quickly or possibly having a quiet word with someone breaching etiquette.
As the night progresses and, depending on the event being celebrated and the quality of the company, singing and dancing and, of course, more drinking, will follow.
Supra held to mark me leaving Supsa Terminal. Great dancing and great fun!
I think Georgian supras are wonderful and like nothing I’ve seen in any other country visited. They are one of Georgia’s strongest traditions, embodying the country’s culture of hospitality and providing a powerful way for family and friends to come together and bond. Sometimes, everything just works perfectly—the food, drink, company, venue, music and dancing—and you leave elated, your ears ringing but dreading next morning’s hangover!
In terms of the amount of food offered and the alcohol consumed, supras may, to the outsider, appear excessive but they are nevertheless a great celebration of life. If you visit Georgia and are invited to a supra then please accept. You'll find it a unique and memorable experience.
Next post, the essential components of a supra—food and drink!