HALLOWEEN in Tbilisi!
06 November, 2015
HALLOWEEN in Tbilisi!
Halloween is the time of year when the air gets crisper, the days get shorter and many nations around the world prepare for the darkest, spookiest and sweetest holiday of the year. This well-established celebration comes from All Hallows Eve, the evening before the All Saints Day celebration of the early Christian church that also traces its roots to the old Celtic tradition of warding off spirits by wearing spooky costumes, carving grotesque pumpkins or sending the spirits off with
treats and offerings of harvested crops.

Berikaoba-keenoba,a folk festival of fertility by Vagharshak Elibekyan
Halloween, having entered Georgia just a few years ago, was met with controversy and a mixed response from society. Some people still abstain from it and oppose it, while others have started to celebrate it annually. It is totally up to any citizen whether he/she likes or dislikes it, yet before judging those who take part in it or, on the contrary, criticizing its opponents, let’s have a look at the old and almost forgotten Georgian carnival named Berikaoba.

Centuries ago long before All Hallows Eve came to Georgia, some villages in Eastern Georgia celebrated a Pagan festival of fertility and rebirth. Men wearing animal skulls, tails, feathers, horns, pumpkins and colorful ribbons moved door-to-door, gathering wine, honey, flour, meat and other victuals served by hosts. Even though the festivity has long worn itself out, some dwellers of Georgia’s villages still preserve the tradition and celebrate Berikaoba.

Sketches of Berikaoba by a famous Georgian artist ,Lado Gudiashvili .


Since even more cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs in Tbilisi were organizing Halloween celebrations than they did last year, I decided to repeat my 2014 experience by taking a short trip to the city in order to discover what Halloween looks like in Georgia this year. I wanted to bring some positivity to the spooky evening, so I put on a feather halo headband along with fairy makeup that, frankly speaking, took me nearly two hours, and ventured outside. My dear friends – a fox, a black cat, a wizard and a witch – gladly accepted the offer to accompany me on my journey.

The empty streets were overshadowed by the Tbilisi TV Broadcasting Tower on Mtatsminda Hill (Holy Mountain) that was partly wrapped in mist and a full moon in all its glory spilling silver light over it all, adding a mysterious note to the atmosphere.

The first place we paid a visit to was the newly opened Satu Bar at Zandukeli Street, known for organizing various events every week. The place was already full of many guests dressed in various costumes, among which a red-bearded boy wearing a horned helmet and looking like a Viking attracted my attention most. The guests could reserve a table in advance (5 GEL per person) and get red alcohol drinks served in syringes, delicious Halloween snacks as well as enjoy punch from a large, wide bowl for free.

Mummy snacks at Satu Bar

Carved pumpkin at Satu Bar
The visitors could take part in a game called Guess The Horror Movie and win free drinks. In addition, organizers of the event invited the famous Georgian electronic music duo Seva to liven up the atmosphere. Although the tradition of trick-or-treating has not yet been established in Georgia, Halloween is not real without candy changing hands. Luckily, bar staff took this into consideration and provided their customers with fruit-flavored vampire fangs and worm jellies as well as pieces of chocolate cake.

Delighted with treats and delicious cake, we headed next to the nearby Canudos Ethnic Bar, the gathering place for both local youth and foreign travelers. Due to heavy rain, the bar was overcrowded, making it almost impossible to get inside. As for the rest of the guests, they were standing outside in a dense formation under a large umbrella. Despite the fact that it was raining cats and dogs and freezing cold, it was nevertheless a perfect opportunity to get acquainted with new people and discuss each other’s costumes. In order to avoid getting wet and ruining our make-up, my friends and I had to squeeze into the crowd. As a result we caused a slight discomfort among the victims of the rain and accidentally got acquainted with a person who claimed that he was a vizier to the Persian King Xerxes. On the whole, it was not so bad – we socialized for a while and laughed a lot, since each of us looked like a drowned cat.

After hesitating and thinking where to go, we eventually caught a taxi and went to Club Didi Gallery (Big Gallery), which has an entrance fee of 20 GEL. We had to stand in a long line to buy tickets and get inside. It was our first visit to this place, so we were interested in what the interior looked like. After passing through a dark tunnel and finally reaching the main venue, life-sized mummies hanging from the ceiling, illuminated with different colors immediately caught our attention. The guests, some clad in different costumes and some in ordinary clothes, were dancing to electronic music played by a DJ dressed like a Catholic priest. The audience had an opportunity to listen to performances by various musicians, including the well-known DJ Jorjick as well as the band Kung Fu Junkie. As for the costumes at Didi Gallery, I would single out a few girls who were marvelously dressed like Maleficent from the famous Disney cartoon “Sleeping Beauty.” There was also a Joseph Stalin smoking the famous pipe and dancing in the corner. However, some guests were still allowed inside despite being casually dressed.

Overall, Halloween 2015 was all right, though I wish there would have been more sweets, more extraordinary decorations and, most importantly, more interesting costumes.

Author: Lika Chigladze

Related story:

The other side of Tbilisi on All Hallows’ Eve - How do Georgians Trick-or-Treat?

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