Chichilaki – Georgian version of Christmas tree
30 December, 2014
Chichilaki – Georgian version of Christmas tree
Chichilaki is the Georgian version of the Christmas tree that was an inseparable part of New Year and Christmas centuries ago in Georgia.

The chichilaki represents a Georgian traditional Christmas tree made from dried hazelnut or walnut branches that are shaved to form a small coniferous tree.

Chichilaki was especially popular in Western Georgia, where the New Year is called Kalanda. To this day, Chichilaki remains very common and you won’t find a home in Western Georgia, especially villages,
with a now standard Christmas pine tree not accompanied by its humble, yet beautiful Georgian competitor.

Old illustration

Early in the morning, the Chichilaki masters, called Veluri (wild), would go into the forest just before the New Year, cut a branch of a hazelnut tree and soak it in water. Then, they would heat it over a fire, remove the bark and start cutting thin shavings from end to top. This is how Chichilaki – the Georgian national Christmas tree is made.
Chichilaki making process

Of course, the masters knew their craft well, they would put ornaments and additional branches on the tree, but the basics of making a chichilaki are quite simple – in fact you can easily do it at home. You'll just need a hazel tree branch, a knife, a hammer and some nails.
Gurian man making Chichilaki. Photo courtesy Goga Chanadiri

Chichilakis are most common in the Guria and Samegrelo regions of western Georgia, near the Black Sea, but they can also be found at the markets and in some stores around the capital of Tbilisi.
Chichilaki market

The tradition of making of chichilaki is an important part of the Georgian Orthodox Christmas, celebrated on 7 January. Georgians believe that the shaved tree resembles the famous beard of St. Basil the Great, who is thought to visit people during Christmas similar to the Santa Claus tradition. Chichilaki also represent the tree of life, a symbol of hope and belief for Georgians.
A snowman made from Chichilaki

Every year, people in Georgia decorate Chichilaki with little red berries,dried fruits and Georgian staple churchkhela, what makes this fluffy Christmas tree even more beautiful. They are attached to the tree as a symbol of bountiful harvest and hope for better future.
Red berries,dried fruits and Georgian staple churchkhela make Chichilaki even more beautiful

The chichilakis are then ceremoniously burned on the day before the Georgian Orthodox Epiphany on 19 January to symbolize the end of the previous year's troubles.
The chichilakis are then ceremoniously burned
The use of the Chichilaki as a Christmas decoration is generally believed by the Georgians to be more environment-friendly than the cutting of pine trees. Since they are made from pruned branches, it is considered to be helpful for the trees.

Related stories:

Celebrating New Year in Georgia now and then

How Georgians Celebrate the New Year and Christmas

How Tbilisi celebrated New Year in the past – Traditions you have not heard about

How Christmas tree was decorated in Tbilisi a century ago
Other Stories
Four seasons are not enough! - Well known campaign takes new turn
The online campaign #spendyoursummeringeorgia was extended to four seasons. And it will keep growing, as Keta Goletiani, one of the founders explains.
On the stairways to heaven
It is not very easy to access the Katskhi pillar in the western Imereti region. But it’s worth your time as “CNN travel” states after they hit the road.
Beshumi to Ushguli: Four days in paradise
Georgian Photographer Giorgi Shermazanashvili made a trip from Beshumi to Ushguli. His pictures capture the great beauty of Georgia's west.
First snow arrives in Kazbegi (Watch video)
It is end of August and the first snow has already arrived in Kazbegi.
Easy summer destinations for Tbilisi travellers
Summer is the busiest period in terms of tourism. Here are 4 places a foreign visitor should see in Georgia, Tbilisi to experience city’s modern and traditional mix.
Sakartvelo TOP-1 – Why is Georgia number 1 for the Belarusian photographer?
Georgia among Georgians is called Sakartvelo. This is the name how the Belarusian tourist calls this country.
American diplomat about Georgia: “Every single city has left me wanting more”
Kristen Crocker, American Diplomat has recently visited Georgia.
Forbes: “Georgia (The Country) Is On Everyone’s Mind”
Forbes, an American business magazine, has recently published an article about Georgia.
Amazon Jungle in Georgia - Kolkheti National Park
Kolkheti National Park is located in the western part of Georgia and intends to protect the wetland nature of Kolkheti.
Abudelauri Colorful Lakes – Magical Place to See In Georgia
A Magical, mysterious place, home of the Khevsuretian Gods, with a view of spectacular Chiukhi Mountain,
Koruldi Lakes in Svaneti – Heaven On Earth
Koruldi Lakes is one of the most magical places in Georgia.
Svaneti – the most untouched place by the outside world
French photographer Julien Pebrel traveled to Georgia last summer.
5 must-see lesser-known places in Kakheti
Kakheti is located in the eastern part of Georgia.
Euronews: "Batumi as a center of youth culture"
Euronews has recently published an article about Batumi, a seaside town in Georgia.
Russian tourist in Batumi explains why Russians should not come to Georgia
It has been more than a week since demonstrations have started in Tbilisi and are held daily.
How "Spend Your Summer in Georgia" campaign started?
The group includes around 207 000 members of Facebook and it has been only couple of days since the campaign was launched.
Why Georgia? – Photographer Eddy Li speaks about his experience
As the number of tourists coming to Georgia rises, so does the number of international photographers.
Visit Gudamakari surrounded by the Greater Caucasus Mountains
Gudamakari is a historical area in northeastern Georgia surrounded by Mtiuleti, Khevi, Khevsureti and Pshavi (slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains).
Georgia among Eid Al Fitr destinations
Where to mark Eid Al Firt? This is the question many of the residents of the Arabian countries will ask themselves as soon as Ramadan is over.
Visit Turtle Lake via the renovated cable car
If you are in Tbilisi and looking for a quiet place surrounded by the greenery, Georgian Journal will show you a perfect option.
5 places to visit for entertainment in Tbilisi
Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia offers a lot of options to those visitors who love to go out, have fun and enjoy the active part of the city.
4 reasons why Georgia should be your next destination by Ftnnews
Ftnnews, a website about traveling has recently published an article about why Georgia should be travelers’ next destination.
Georgia and Ukraine have nothing in common when it comes to traveling
Kyiv Post has recently devoted an article to Georgia.
Former Swiss Ambassador to Georgia Lukas Beglinger settles down in Ujarma
Lukas Beglinger, a former ambassador of Switzerland to Georgia has left the homeland to live in Georgia.
The New York Times about Lelo Burti, Georgian folk game
The New York Times has recently dedicated an article to the Georgian folk game Lelo Burti.
GEL Exchange Rate