Orthodox Holy Saturday in Georgia
Orthodox Holy Saturday, known as წმინდა შაბათი (Tsminda Shabati) in Georgia, is a significant religious event celebrated by the Georgian Orthodox Church. It commemorates the day when Jesus Christ's body lay in the tomb and his soul descended into hell to free the righteous and bring them to heaven. Orthodox Holy Saturday is observed on the Saturday before Easter Sunday and follows the Julian calendar, which means the date may vary from year to year.
The celebration of Orthodox Holy Saturday in Georgia can be traced back to the early Christian period when the Georgian Orthodox Church was formally established in the 4th century AD. Christianity was declared the state religion by King Mirian III of Iberia in 337 AD, and since then, the Georgian Orthodox Church has played a pivotal role in the spiritual and cultural life of the country. The observance of Holy Saturday, along with other Christian traditions, has thus been an integral part of Georgian religious practices for centuries.
National customs for Orthodox Holy Saturday in Georgia
On Orthodox Holy Saturday in Georgia, various customs and traditions are followed to mark the solemnity of the day. One of the most important rituals is the preparation of Easter bread called "paska," which is made with flour, sugar, butter, and eggs. The dough is shaped into various forms such as crosses, angels, or birds, symbolizing the resurrection of Christ. The bread is then baked and brought to the church to be blessed by the priest during the evening service.
Another significant custom is the lighting of candles during the evening service on Holy Saturday. The faithful gather in churches and light candles from the Holy Fire brought from Jerusalem. This Holy Fire symbolizes the light of Christ, and it is believed to cleanse the souls of the believers and bring blessings to their homes.
Local customs for Orthodox Holy Saturday in Georgia
In addition to the national customs, there are local traditions unique to different regions of Georgia. In some areas, it is customary to visit the graves of deceased relatives on Holy Saturday. People clean and decorate the graves with fresh flowers, light candles, and offer prayers for the departed souls.
In the region of Svaneti, a unique tradition called "lamproba" is observed on Holy Saturday. It involves the lighting of large wooden torches, which are carried in a procession through the village. This ritual symbolizes the victory of light over darkness and is also believed to protect the community from evil spirits.
Orthodox Holy Saturday, or Tsminda Shabati, is a deeply spiritual and solemn event in Georgia. Rooted in ancient Christian traditions, it is observed with a mix of national and local customs that reflect the rich cultural heritage of the country. The day serves as a reminder of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the hope of the resurrection, bringing people together in faith and reverence.