The Supra – the Georgian feast – is at the heart of Georgian culture. Georgians will find any reason to set up a Supra. For instance, when I found my first appartment here and when I had bought a car, my Georgian friends were quick to let me know that it’s time to celebrate.
As a country with a long tradition of wine-making, wine is clearly at the core of the Supra. Thus, when I invited my friends to celebrate, it was an honour for one of them to bring his homemade wine for all of us to share.
The Tamada is the toastmaster. Unlike in Sweden were the toastmaster coordinates the various speaches, the Tamada holds virtually all of the toasts. First we toast to the God, followed by toast to our parents, to those who live on in our hearts but who no longer walks on earth (the deceased)*, to love, to peace, to sweet memories, to our children, to women etcetera. Tamada will not merely toast to this or that, but rather elaborate on the topic to explain the deeper meaning and relevance of it. After a few rounds, Tamada may request Alaverdi, which means asking someone to further elaborate on the same topic, telling the company what the topic means to him or her. Another important role is the designated wine-filler who makes sure everyone’s glasses are always full..
My friends in Gori were very strict on everyone fully emptying their glass for each toast. Emptying the glass fully is a gesture to show that you full-heartedly atribute whatever we are toasting for. Not emptying the glass would be disgraceful and insulting. While many foreigners seems to think the various toasts are non-sence drinking games, I find that they have a very deep meaning – a great way of regularly paying tribute and gratitude to those who walked before us, and wishing the best to those who will come, and reminicing sweet memories in life and so on. To me it’s a great way to connect with gratitude and not to take things forgranted; a spiritual ritual integrated into everyday life. While I really appreciate the Supra-tradition and took the art of toasting to my heart, the non-compromising drinking rules soon led to me turning down invitations.
Supra in the restaurant always turned into a wild party. All of a sudden the lights would go off and the live music begin and Everyone would enter the dancefloor: men dancing – rather intimately – to the right, and the women to the left. After a few songs, the lights would go on again and everyone returns to the tables and to continue eating and drinking and toasting. After a few hours of feasting people from other tables start inviting you to theirs (and of course, toasting, emptying your beaker..) turning the whole place into one big party with an excellent uplifting atmosphere, I witnessed the testosterone-filled Caucasian confrontational temperament at close distance at two or three occassions.