Walking with you around Georgia I definitely have to sing an ode to the Georgian hospitality. This tradition is like the national treasure, as well as historic landmarks.
Unfortunately, the modern world changes the quality of communication between people. In large cities the pace of life is very high. You have to solve a variety of tasks every day. Modern professions usually require non-normalized regime, which means «from morning — till evening!” Psychologists have even named this state as a «disease of manager». That means when a man cannot get out of the workflow, he can only think about his work. And one day suddenly you realize that for a hundred years you haven’t seen your friends. You can communicate with them only through the Internet. What shall we do in such case? Of course, to invite guests! Set the table, buy a good wine and Borjomi, and enjoy communicating with nice people. Concerning feasts: you should definitely visit Georgia as a guest!
Favourite Caucasian meal for Ukrainians
To be a guest in the Georgian family is a very pleasant feeling. In order to leave a good memory you need to follow several simple rules, a kind of unwritten code of the guest.
The rules of this Code have ancient origin, and now they have become a sign of good upbringing and cultural indicator of the adequacy of a person, in spite of the nationality of a person.
Hospitality as a cultural tradition appeared long ago and all Caucasian peoples have such tradition. The Highlanders have the most complete form of it. Any person without bad intentions could become a guest. The identity of the guest was considered untouchable. The owner not only fed and gave shelter, but also had to protect and entertain guests. Traveller, who had no friends in the village, went to the central square, where he could always find locals willing to invite him.
In honour of the guests of honour in the village sports and dance competitions were organized. Guests played a very important role: the mountain villages were quite isolated from the outside world, so the guest became a source of new information and experience. A man, who travels a lot, was considered wise and highly respected. The central square in the mountain villages led an active social life and you could always meet locals there.
A guest, who stayed in the same home more than two times, became a friend of the family and the relationship between the guest and the master of the house turned into fraternal friendship. It was considered bad manners for a guest to enter the village on a horse. A guest had to dismount when he was in the suburbs. Entering the house, the guest had to remove weapons and to give them to the host. You can imagine how important this gesture (in form of signal of friendly intent) was, taking into account the meaning of personal weapons to Caucasian peoples.
The hosts also tried to find a better place for a guest: to offer the best room, or if there was not enough space, the hosts went to neighbours to spend a night. A Russian writer once wrote in his notes: «A poor mountaineer tries to provide a visitor with the same facilities as a rich person has. But when a mountaineer doesn’t have all needed things, he will ask a neighbour or relative. That makes you feel as though all the mountaineers are of the same fortune.”
It was considered a great good for the family to receive guests. “Home, which is not visited by the guests, is an unhappy home.» Guest was regarded as the messenger of God: «Why are you crying?» “I haven’t got guests for 7 days. I am afraid that God despised me.» Guests were always well treated. A mandatory attribute for the feast was wine. Even if there wasn’t a guest at home, the hostess, covering the table, always left a portion for the unexpected guest.
Caucasian hosts with special attention received guests of other nationalities. No matter the language or land, everyone understood that it is much harder to endure the hardships of travelling around unfamiliar places. Seeing a guest, the hosts gave some food and gifts as well as they wished a good road to a guest.
Everyone is happy to receive a guest
Of course, in response to such a warm welcome, a normal person feels gratitude. That is why traditionally a guest came with gifts to the family. A guest also tried not to distract hosts from their everyday cares and preoccupations; to be humble, modest and polite. It was important not to abuse the hospitality and leave «while the host asks to stay.»
Eastern proverb says:
In the morning a guest is gold
In the evening he becomes silver
And if he stays too long,
He will become copper.
As an illustration of this I will tell the story of Mihail Prishvin «Guest». It is quite short.
In the Caucasus a guest is considered the most respectable.
«Well. – I thought if I lived and everybody could look after me”.
— Is it true, — I asked Lula, — that every guest anywhere in the Caucasus is received with honour?..
— Every guest, — said Lula, — in the Caucasus is received with a great honour.
— And how long can he stay?
— For three days – answered Lula.
— Only three days? — I was surprised. – And what about a guest, who wants to stay for more than 3 days?
— After the 3rd day a guest must explain the purpose of his visit.
-And after he explained?
— After that he can stay for more time.
— How long?
— If the host has time to care, a guest can live as much as he wants.
— And if there is no time?
— Then excuse me!
— The host says «excuse me» to the guest?
— You cannot say it to a guest straightforward. Every host has his words for every guest. If I cannot take care of a guest anymore, then early in the morning I go to the stables to feed his horse and to clear it well. When my guest wakes up, I treat him with well with shashlik, boza, chikhir, ayran. When there is no holiday and I treated a guest so well, then he understands that it is time to go. Guest says thanks to me and goes to the stables.
— Well, — I said, — it is good if he understands, but if he after a meal will go sleep again, then what to do?
— Let him sleep. And when he wakes up, I’ll take his hand and will lead to my garden. A bird flies into my garden, and then flies away. When a bird comes, I point at bird and say to a guest: «Look, a bird has flown to us!» And when a bird flies away, I say: «Look, the bird has flown away!» And then I say: «The bird knows when it is time to go, but a man does not know it often. Why doesn’t a man know?” After that every guest says goodbye and goes in the stables for his horse.
My next post will be about another honourable duty of guest in the Caucasus…