After a couple of weeks in Georgia I realized this Georgian Toast might be the basis of the georgian culture. It is only after three weeks and many Georgian toasts – with translations and full explanations from the georgian friend I was travelling with – that I finally managed to understand what was going on aroud the Georgian table.
First of all your host prepares different meals, indeed, all this alcohol requires food. All the meals are brought on THE TABLE, mostly a salad of tomatoes and cuncumber, some georgian cheeses (which might be the topic of another article ; or not), different kinds of fat meat, bread and some local food. Once the table is set up, everyone sits around it and the most respected person(s) designate(s) a Tamada who will be the boss of the table durring the whole toast… It can be very impolite to decline such an honor.
Then the Tamada fills all the glasses around the table, either with Georgian Chacha, or with Georgian Wine, and starts with a first toast (mostly this first toast thanks God for eveything). The Tamada takes his glass in his right hand with a solemn looking and everyone has to stop talking, regardless to what was the topic of the conversation. Tamada gives at that point the main idea of this toast, after this 1, 2 or 3 minute speech he says « Gaomarjos » or « Gagimarjos », cheers with everyone, and drinks his glass, bottom up. Then everyone has to say something about this topic, toast his glass with all the others who haven’t drunk yet and drinks his glass bottom up as well. When everyone is done with his first glass, a second one is filled up, a second topic is given by Tamada, … And the procedure can last for a whole morning, a whole day or a whole night.
The toasts are given for friendship, love, churches, patriarch, God, family, children, men, ladys beautiful Georia, died people, died people who don’t have anyone to remember them, guests, hosts… In my opinion this is a very nice way to think about deep feelings hidding into your heart, to express them, and make the others feel what you feel. But. The fact is that all these georgians practice these toasts since they started to drink – when they were teenagers – and give toast always about the same topics, always with the same solemn attitude, and – from what I understood through my official translator, Elena – always with more or less the same thoughts. If you add that you take part into this toast, twice a day, for a week, and it doesn’t make any kind of sense anymore.
But what I described above is only the main idea about what is the Georgian toast, then it is full of codes, duties and appareances, definitely not only deep thoughts coming from your heart as it is supposed to be. If you speak well, with the good words, you’ll have a deep respect from all the table, so some recite poems, stories, or legends, probably with beautiful words, but definitely not theirs. A lot of other rules exist, for instance you can not toast glasses when you drink for died people ; when Tamada starts to speak and asks someone to say something right after him, you rather come up, quickly, with a good idea ; or someone who toasts with the top of his glass to the bottom of yours means he respects you… And I guess this month in Georgia enabled me to understand no more than 20% of these rules.
You understood, this Georgian toast is quite facinating at the begining but in my opinion gets really exhausting and annoying after a while because it is always about the same topics, it is more about showing off than thinking deeply with your hearth and takes all the time, preventing any other conversations about music, cinema, politics, travel or daily life. However, tradition is tradition and I am deeply convinced if you go to Georgia in 20 years, nothing will have changed !