The New Year in the South Caucasus, namely in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, is one of the most beloved and fun holidays. It is a true family holiday which gathers all relatives around one beautifully decorated table. The celebrations of New Year in the Caucasus is associated with many unique traditions which you won’t witness anywhere else.
Thus, if you are planning to visit this fascinating hospitable region in winter our article will help you to find out many curious facts about the most interesting New Year traditions of the South Caucasus.
Those who don’t want to postpone their travel and are eager to take a trip in approaching summer or autumn can check some interesting option of Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan itinerary here.
New Year’s traditions in Armenia
New Year is the most popular and beloved family holiday for Armenians. The New Year rush begins a month before the holiday. By tradition, New Year should be celebrated in the best way.
Before the adoption of Christianity, there were two separate holidays in Armenia, Amanor and Navasard. There is a romantic legend of the god Amatur and the goddess Amanor that is associated with the holiday of Amanor. On the day of the equinox, Amatur confessed his love to the goddess and gave her an apple. From that day on Armenians began to celebrate Amanor, present apples and forgive offences. Navasard is the second holiday, which was celebrated on August 11. According to legend, on this day Hayk the Archer killed Bel and freed his people. Only in the XVIII century, Armenians began to celebrate January 1, as the beginning of the New Year.
The traditional Christmas tree was the “tree of life” made of wheat straw. Armenians decorated the tree with knitted toys, fruits, amulets and sprigs of cinnamon. Kahand Papi, Santa Claus in Armenia was a symbol of fertility and a new life.
Armenian festive table should be full of traditional dishes, sweets and fruits. The main dish of the table is dolma with grape leaves. Every Armenian hostess has her unique secret of making dolma and each of them believes her dolma is the best. The New Year’s table is decorated with traditional gata, dried fruits, baklava and much more.
By tradition, right after the midnight friends visit each other, and as a sign of respect, the youngest visits the elder’s house. On the New Year, all offences are forgotten and forgiven.
New Year’s traditions in Georgia
Georgian New Year, like other traditional holidays, is so much fun. New Year bustle begins long before December 31. Georgians try to meet the New Year in the best way so that the whole year will be successful. According to tradition, on New Year’s Eve, Mekvla is the first guest in the house (usually Georgians invite a successful person who brings good luck and wealth to the house).
Georgians decorate the house with a traditional Christmas tree Chichilaki made of hazelnut twigs. The twigs are decorated with paper chips. Chichilaki is kept the house until January 19, after it is stored in the wine cellar until the next year.
The most important part of the New Year holidays is the traditional New Year table Tabla with festive dishes. Traditional festive dishes are satsivi, pork, khachapuri, pelamushi, gozinaki and other delicious Georgian dishes.
On the four sides of the table, they light candles (those were handmade candles for luck). The whole family gathers around the table and nobody goes to bed on New Year’s Eve. Georgians believe that if you sleep on New Year’s Eve, you may miss your luck.
The second day of the New Year is called Bedoba or Day of Fate and it is no less important. According to legend, the way you spend Bedoba, that way the whole year will turn out. Day of fate is spent with family and friends.
New Year’s traditions in Azerbaijan
By tradition, we celebrate the New Year on December 31, in Azerbaijan, this is a separate holiday of the passing year. You can learn some historical facts about Nowruz (New Year) here.
First, men of the family gather and pray. Afterwards, the eldest of the women serve the last dinner of the year. The traditional festive dish is milk pilaf.
In Azerbaijan, the doors are kept open on this day to receive guests. The eldest son washes the guests’ hands with floral water and invites them to the table. The celebration lasts three days, after which women begin to celebrate the last day of the year.
On the night of the last day of the year, the whole family pours water on each other before bedtime, thus they get rid of all the bad things.
New Year or Nowruz in Azerbaijan is celebrated on March 20. This holiday is full of traditions and fun. Locals wear new clothes, go to the river and wash off all the negative of the past year.
Another tradition of celebrating Nowruz is treating sweets and honey. The traditional table is decorated with seven dishes, the name of which begins with “S”: Sabzi (first greens), Sirke (balsamic vinegar), Sked (fresh milk), etc. A mandatory attribute is coloured eggs placed in front of a candle and a mirror, as a symbol of the transition from the Old Year to the New one.