Easter morning for breakfast, we had the much talked about paska cake for breakfast. We also had regular chocolate cake. Also on the table were the Red Easter eggs! And I guess for kicks and a precursor for the day’s events- red wine. With the eggs, we each held one and tried to break the other. If ours broke we had to give it to the other person and vise versa. Which meant we had boiled eggs, too.
The Easter supra was delicious. She had been preparing for this day for a long time. Natia brought out cheese that had been aging since August. We also had a dish tied to Easter called Satcivi, which is chicken in a walnut sauce. Neighbors came and went as the day went on, each offering toasts and being toasted to. Later in the day, it was our turn to go visit the neighbors and give our well wishes.
The day after, we again had more paska. (It’s not tasting any better.)
My friends wanted to go to a newly built church on the top of a hill across the river. But we had to go through the cemetery to get there. Tradition dictates that on or after Easter families go to the cemetery to visit with their deceased relatives. I don’t know the genius of this tradition, but it has eerie parallels to the heart of the Christian event.
I didn’t really want to go to the cemetery. I felt as if it was intrusive on the families that were having intimate time with their deceased relatives. We skirted around the cemetery and climbed up to the Church. The church was commissioned by a wealthy Ozurgetian who now lives in the Ukraine. From the hilltop, it commands a beautiful view of the town and river.
While standing up above the cemetery, a student from my school saw me and scrambled up to say hello. She and her cousins walked with me for a while and then took a photo with me. I was done with the view and decided to leave as I told Natia that I would be back for lunch.
Leaving the cemetery, I saw my host father, Gurami! He was there with his goddaughter, Salome and their friends to visit his deceased grandmother. So he invited me, too. Here I was, prepared to circumvent the cemetery out of respect, and now I’m being invited to participate in the ritual! Ironic.
They shoveled food and wine out of this old falling apart Soviet Era car. We go over to a tiny plot of fenced off ground to pay our respects to his ancestors. There were two women buried in the plot, his grandmother who raised him and his great grandmother. He grandfather was buried in another city where he fought in the war, and his parents were in another gravesite in Oz.
We toasted several times to the deceased and ate some food; paska and khatchapuri.
My student came back over and asked if I could come to her family’s gravesite, too. I went and paid tribute to her deceased as well.
The ancestors of the Georgians are with them always. They have a supra at the grave one month after one dies, then a year and on holy Days. At every supra there is a toast especially for them.
That night we had paska… again.
And you never got the chance to see how good I’ve done
And you never got to see me back at number one
I wish that you were here to celebrate together
I wish that we could spend the holidays together
Bye Bye, Mariah Carey