Georgia’s Halloween War

It’s been a while since Celts used to celebrate the end of a summer with a harvest festival. It was called Samhain. The ritual was linked to festivals in other Celtic cultures, and continued to be celebrated in medieval times. Because of its date (October 31) the festival was linked to All Saint’s Day  (November 1) which is also referred to as All Hallows. The eve of All Hallows was called All-Hallows-Even which later transformed into Halloween.

During Samhain people walked between Bonfires which was considered as a cleansing ritual. Young men wore costumes and masks, and they were impersonating dead. Celts thought that by all these they were warding of harmful spirits.

Modern Halloween developed over time, but the idea stayed the same – people wear spooky masks and costumes to scare off evil spirits. At certain point humans began to commemorate souls by curving pumpkins into a so called jack-o’-lanterns. Pumpkins with a candle inside were placed in windows in order to ward off bad spirits.

Today, Halloween is largely celebrated in Northern America, Ireland and in the UK. In other countries, mostly young generation adopted the holiday and they celebrate it as well. People wear scary and sometimes funny costumes, kids go on a trick-or-treat and various parties are held. Just like in most of the western countries, some Georgians celebrate Halloween too. For years, Halloween party has been held in several schools, cafes and clubs.

In 2008, several young Georgians organized an open air Halloween party in downtown Tbilisi. Hundreds attended and special performance was staged. Everything was going well until a different group of people appeared at the place. Several men lead by a bishop got on the stage, destroyed a DJ equipment and got in a fight with attendees. Later on police intervened and the event was over. Check out a video story by Internews Georgia that contains a footage from the party:

The group that deranged the party proclaimed itself as a Union of Orthodox Parents (UOP) and since then they deny any kind of celebration of the holiday. According to the Union, it was a party of drug-addict satanists and this kind of events are bad for Georgia.

In 2009, because of a public outrage most of the Halloween parties were held in clubs and pubs only.

This year both who consider Halloween as a normal holiday and those who deny it began to work in early October. Several clubs like Cache will hold a Halloween party on October 31. A Facebook called Cxovrebaze Gaborotebulebi (Mad about life) created a Facebook event calling people to gather on Rustaveli ave. and Freedom Square to celebrate the event. It has to be noted that almost 800 people pressed attending button. On the other hand UOP printed special flyers and distributed them in schools around the area where the above mentioned event will be held.

UOP Flyer: Halloween – Pagan-Satanist “Holiday”

According to one of the supporters of the UOP – Lado Sadghobelashvili (who was running for a place in the Parliament in Spring, 2010) an event on Rustaveli ave. will start at 20:00. Sadghobelashvili thinks that organizers cannot realize that Halloween is a satanist holiday and it must not be celebrated. “I don’t want this kind of events in my country [..] we will not attack them, but we will gather on Rustaveli and hold a public prayer” – he told to one of the Georgian mediums.

Meanwhile, a website has been launched by another Orthodox group, that explains their version of the nature of Halloween and why it must not been celebrated. According to the authors, Celts believed that on October 31 hungry evil souls were coming to the Earth. People believed that if they would not prepare food for these spirits they would be cursed. Authors claim that this was the origin of trick-or-treat and according to the Orthodox belief it is prohibited to participate in this kind of festivities.

It has to be noted that Halloween is not the only pagan holiday of its kind celebrated in Georgia. Chiakokonoba is a famous ritual among Georgian kids. They gather woods start a fire and jump over it. According to the legend by jumping over the fire one purifies himself/herself from evil souls. It should also be noted that Chiakokonoba is celebrated in all Georgia and no major derange has ever happened.

It seems like both events on the Halloween’s eve (gathering on Rustaveli ave. and a public prayer) will be an expression of protest towards each other. Tomorrow will show what will happen. Stay tuned for updates..

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