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Alilo – Christmas tradition in Georgia
08 January, 2019
Alilo is a traditional Georgian Christmas song performed the night before Christmas. In the past, people used to gather, visit families and wish them Merry Christmas singing Alilo. The host families would give food and sweets to the guests (an egg was a necessary gift carrying a symbol of fertility). The tradition was performed all over the country. Each region of Georgia added their traditional elements to it.
Alilo is a long-standing tradition dating back to V-VI centuries. No sooner had the
Soviet Union been established than the Christmas tradition Alilo was forbidden in Georgia. The leaders of the union strived to eliminate religious superstitions and to discredit the holy-day. Fortunately, after the collapse of the regime in the 90s, the tradition was restored to the country by the spiritual leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church Ilia II.
Nowadays, Alilo takes place on Christmas Day on the 7th of January. People in religious costumes are processing through the streets of Georgian cities, collecting food, sweets, and gifts accompanied by traditional Georgian Christmas songs. The presents are gathered in a church where Christmas service is conducted. After the service, the food and the presents are distributed to orphanages, nursing houses, and penitentiaries.
Alilo is often compared to a trick-and-treat tradition which is a Halloween ritual. Children in costumes travel from house to house, asking for treats with the phrase "Trick or treat". The "treat" stands for gifts, food, and sweets that the host is supposed to give a guest. The "trick" refers to mischief on the homeowners if no treat is given.
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