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
Things to keep in mind while travelling to Georgia
If you are planning to visit Georgia, Georgian Journal will provide you with important tips and recommendations.
3 Innovative startups created in Georgia
Georgian students have created a number of interesting startups in recent years.
Stunning Georgian Monasteries captured by Giorgi Nikolava
Georgian photographer Giorgi Nikolava has captured beautiful views of Georgian Monasteries.
Georgia, I love you - Georgian policemen's honorable behavior leaves tourist excited
"The Georgian police went above and beyond my expectations" - writes Nicole on Facebook.
Cave cities to visit in Georgia
Georgia boasts its unique caves spread out across the country.
Top 12 Must-See Places in Georgia
If you are going to visit Georgia, there are top 12 places you must visit throughout the country.
Unique Qvevri-made whisky by Alexander Distillery
Whisky is a strong alcoholic beverage, an aromatic drink, which is made from fermented grain mash in oak barrels.
Virtual tour to snowy Georgia by Shermazana
Georgia is distinguished by its unique nature. Georgia boasts its Mountains, lakes, rivers and a sea, forests and resort towns, all found in a single country.
History of the Georgian resort town Borjomi
Borjomi is a resort town located in the region of Samtskhe-Javakheti, Georgia.
CNN about abandoned Tskaltubo Spa
CNN has recently published an article about the abandoned sanatoriums of Tskaltubo, a town in the west part of Georgia.
4 Estonians and a Lithuanian who farm tea in Georgia
What comes to your mind when you hear Georgia? Lots of things: wine first of all, cuisine, nature and mountains covered with snow all year, tourism, but what about tea?
Georgia celebrates National Flag Day
Today on the 14th of January Georgia celebrates National Flag Day.
Imeretian vine species: Black Acorn
Georgia boasts more than 500 varieties of indigenous grapes, some of them are not found anywhere in the world.
The New York Times advices Americans to visit Batumi in 2019
“Tbilisi, Georgia’s charming capital, has been flooded with tourists over the past decade”
Georgian mountain town Mestia on the travel hotlist
The daily newspaper Daily Express in the United Kingdom has recently published an article about the top up-and-coming travel destinations for this year.
Washington Post about Georgian wine on Mars and Chakrulo
Washington Post has recently published an article about the IX Millennium project and the Georgian team experimenting on grape varieties and Mars-like soil.
Tbilisi covered with fireworks on the New Year’s Eve
Old Tbilisi was entirely covered with fireworks on the New Year’s Eve in Georgia.
Alilo – Christmas tradition in Georgia
Alilo is a traditional Georgian Christmas song performed the night before Christmas.
Georgian wines to taste for Christmas and New Year
Georgia is the country where the earliest evidence of grape wine-making was found.
8 Georgian buildings nominated at the Mies van der Rohe Award
8 Georgian buildings have been nominated at the European Union Prize of Contemporary Architecture, Mies van der Rohe Award 2019.
Georgian wine wins gold medals in Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Georgian wines have recently received gold medals at the International Wine Tasting Competition “Vine East”.
Founder of brandy tradition in Georgia – David Sarajishvili
Wine making has long tradition in Georgia. It has been made for centuries in this country and scientists sometimes call Georgia a cradle of wine.
“Mekvleoba” and “Bedoba” – New Year traditions in Georgia
New Year is one of the main celebrations in the wintertime.
Wintertime paintings by Georgian artists
The wintertime is always associated with snow, Christmas and New Year.
Festive decorations in different parts of Georgia
Georgia gets ready for Christmas and New Year.
GEL Exchange Rate