The other side of Tbilisi on All Hallows’ Eve - How do Georgians Trick-or-Treat?
06 November, 2014
A few years ago very few people in Georgia knew about Halloween, and many of those who did, associated it with some evil ritual. Things and attitudes have changed since then, though it still remains a controversial issue among older and more conservative people. The holiday has become quite popular, especially among younger generations. Consequently, every year more and more people celebrate the 31st of October. Many universities, companies, cafés, bars, restaurants, clubs and pubs now organize Halloween evenings, offering
different kinds of entertainment to their guests – though the tradition of trick-or-treating has not yet been established. This year I decided to challenge myself to visit as many places as I could on Halloween night in order to discover how people in Tbilisi celebrate this occasion. So I put on some feline looking-makeup, put cat ears on my head and began my adventurous journey into the spooky night of Halloween in Georgia.

The first place I visited was Hangar Bar, which was celebrating its 12th annual costume party. The entrance was decorated with jack-o’-lanterns (hollow carved pumpkins with candles inside) and skeletons. There was a competition and the most original costume won a gift certificate from the bar. The place was full of foreigners, yet one could find some Georgians there as well. I also noticed two very funny little kids: one was wearing a Spiderman costume and the other wore the mask of a vampire. It was the only place where I found children.

The next place I decided to go was Don Giuseppe – an Italian restaurant, which I heard was organizing a fantastic evening. From a distance, one could easily find the place just by following the voices coming out of it, like noises from a haunted house. There was a small imitation of a cemetery with a few gravestones on the terrace. At the entrance a polite vampire butler and dead bride waitresses greeted visitors. Even the cooks’ faces were painted. The interior was creatively decorated: the floor was covered with dry leaves; the ceiling and walls were decorated with bats and spiders; and red alcoholic drinks were served in syringes. I enjoyed the live music excellently played by a guitarist as well as the popular songs performed by Medusa, the monster from Greek mythology. Furthermore the guests played different games. They had to put their hand into a box without looking and guess what was inside it. Also they had to guess the different characters from horror movies. In the end the best costume was revealed and its owner rewarded with a nice bottle of wine.

The third place I visited was a recently-opened cute little bar called JandaBar. We have a famous expression in Georgian: “Go to Jandaba,” which roughly translates as “go to hell” though a bit less harsh. Consequently, the bar’s name had a thematic connection with Halloween to some extent. The first thing that caught my attention here was a big wall covered with a giant detailed map from The Lord of the Rings, which I very much liked. When I arrived, the party was going strong. Most of the young people were disguised in different costumes, drinking beer and having fun. Here, one could come across all kinds of characters ranging from Napoleon to Al Capone – or Frida Kahlo hanging out with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. For a moment I felt like I was travelling via time machine.

Though, I was already exhausted and I could barely walk, I could not miss yet another party at Canudos Ethnic Bar – a place where you can experience the spirit of travel and a mix of national cultures. Here the main visitors are tourists, students and young people from across the globe. As usual there was no space inside the crowded bar, so guests were scattered about the small yard around a beautiful old fountain spouting red-colored water, imitating blood. There were decorative pumpkins and the artificial spider webs highlighted with laser light. Tiny Halloween cupcakes and colorful beverages were sold at the bar. You could definitely feel the atmosphere of Halloween here. Some of the guests were dancing to electronic music inside the building. Others were sitting or standing in groups talking to each other. It’s just impossible to pass through this Ethnic Bar without coming across at least one old acquaintance.

My last stop was Dive Bar, a hip niche bar with an almost cult-like clientele. Dive was established by several Americans (and one Georgian) living in Tbilisi, and it reminds me of a retro speakeasy or some secret underground kind of gathering place for a “specific group of people.” The minimalist bar fits its name as it is comprised of simple yet rustic handmade furniture and vintage posters. If one wants to make some foreign friends or simply practice one’s English, I would say it’s the perfect place. The main room was full of different kinds of people – some of them dressed ordinarily, others in costume – dancing and playing games or just casually socializing. If you are a gamer or were fond of video games as a child, you would have definitely recognized the bartenders, consisting of famous Nintendo characters such as Mario and Luigi and even Link from The Legend of Zelda.
Eventually I caught a taxi home with a rare driver, who was listening to blues, which I think was a perfect ending after mysterious, bohemian and, at the same time, exhausting evening.

Author: Lika Chigladze