New Year’s traditions in Tbilisi
Christmas and New Year’s Eve is not always about snow and cold winds. In Tbilisi, you will experience holidays filled with warm comfortable weather, lots of lights, fireworks and street markets. Moreover, Georgian culture emerged from the influences of European and Asian cultures which makes it a place with unique traditions. So today we’ll tell you what to expect if you are planning to spend your New Year’s Eve in Tbilisi. You will definitely not forget the way the Georgians ring in the new year.
Where in Tbilisi to buy Christmas gifts?
For a classic touristy walk visit Rustaveli Avenue and Liberty Square. There is usually the main city Christmas tree on the Liberty Square and colorful lights all around the centre streets, so this district is perfect for truly Christmas photos in front of pretty bright constructions in the streets. The alley towards the Tbilisi Gallery (main Tbilisi mall) is famous for its weekend street market that becomes very exciting during the winter season due to cozy garlands and delicious mulled wine. The market offers a range of hand-made goods, crafted accessories, and souvenirs from local farmers and artists. This is a perfect chance to get really unique gifts for your loved ones. You might also find farmers selling huge pumpkins from their fields, right there in the city center.
Another popular place for spending your winter holiday in Tbilisi is the Rose Revolution Square (the one with a huge bike). There is always a big market with street food, hot chocolate, mulled wine, skating rink and other activities like music concerts and games for children. On 21 and 22 December, Fabrika, one of the most popular city art spaces, will have a Christmas Fair. Performance of children’s orchestra and New Band with wind instrument and drums, food, drinks, and Christmas spirit in the air. On 28 December, the Meidan Square in the old Tbilisi will also host an annual street festival with goods from local artisans.
Where to watch fireworks in Tbilisi?
One of the most distinguishing features of Tbilisi New Year’s is an enormous amount of fireworks. Tbiliselis just love colorful skies and long fireworks all around the city. It basically does not matter in which part of the city you celebrate New Year’s Eve because you will definitely become part of this amazing show. To have the best viewing point, go up to the Mtatsminda park, the Narikala fortress or any restaurant in the Avlabari district. By the way, many restaurants in Tbilisi offer ready-made solutions for those who prefer not to invent anything special but just join a big party on New Year’s night. Prices start from 80 USD per person which includes the festive menu, DJ or live performance of a band, and sometimes other activities.
For a more authentic local experience in Tbilisi in December and January, walk all the way to Aghmashenebeli Avenue and the bazaar. Georgian bazaars are a real treasury in terms of traditional Georgian food and special Georgian bazaar atmosphere. Bazaars are the most-visited places in the city during the last few days before New Year’s Eve so there you will experience real Tbilisi life. The highlight for locals is gozinaki, a homemade sweet dish, a type of candy made from walnuts dipped in honey. It is a must-have dish for New Year’s. It is also a solid dish, so be careful with your teeth!
As for the food, mind that 1 January is probably the only day of the year when everyone in the city prefers to eat out. Finding a place for a holiday breakfast might be a real challenge, so check our special article on this topic to get prepared for your first delicious breakfast of 2020.
What is chichilaki?
While everyone gets a classical Christmas tree, most Georgians put up a traditional New Year tree called chichilaki. Traditional New Year trees are made from shaved walnut or hazelnut tree branches and then decorated with chocolates and fruit. These trees look cute and fluffy, and people believe they bring happiness and peace. People then put it in the living room, right next to the dinner table. On 17 January, trees are burned which symbolizes the death of the previous year’s troubles. If you are planning a long journey, stay for this unforgettable ceremony. By the way, the chichilaki tradition is believed to be more environment-friendly than the classical tradition of cutting pine trees.
As a part of the clearing process, visit Tbilisi sulfur baths. Sulphuric natural spring water is said to be very useful for your health. There are different options for couples or big groups of friends with an hourly payment: common rooms, private rooms, and various extra services for those who want to experience a true purifying effect of these ancient baths.
Between your New Year’s Eve supply shopping at the bazaar and burning your personal chichilaki, be sure to visit a couple of special Christmas events in Tbilisi. For example, an exhibition of the famous Georgian artist Nino Chakvetadze opens on 10 December. Go to Nocha Gallery (Zandukeli, 12) to admire her beautiful cute paintings and maybe to buy one as a memorable art gift from Georgia. Another option is a “Nutcracker” ballet performed at the State Ballet of Georgia. In any case, Tbilisi is a suitable place for those who love craft goods, delicious traditional dishes, art events, and big street fairs with activities for people of all ages.