Monday, April 25, 2011

Questions without answers

I apologize for the incompleteness and disjointedness of this post. I am having a very difficult time formulating my thoughts for the topic on which I want to write. The difficulty is stemming from my lack of understanding of Georgia's cultural practice of drinking to excess.

According to tradition, after giving a toast, that person must down all the wine in his/her glass.... or horn or bowl or mug or vase or boot or whatever else the receptacle may be. If only one toast was given, it wouldn't be a problem, but at any celebration (suphra), you can count on at least eight toasts.... maybe fifteen or more. That's a lot of wine.

As a woman, I have had an easier time begging off of sharing in this tradition. It's alright for a woman to refuse to drink. Don't get me wrong, I love wine -- but I don't like chugging it by the glass-full. I find it easier to just refuse it all than being goaded and prodded to "dalie bolomde" (drink to the last). If you want some wonderfully written, witty word pictures of Georgian drinking, my friend James has written two great posts in his blog from his experiences. One is from his New Year's celebration in his village, and the other is an exploration into the societal pressures of drinking. Both are very accurate representations of the toasting/wine-imbibing that goes on.

Next to New Year's, Easter is the biggest holiday in Georgia. In the Orthodox tradition, Easter carries greater importance (at least, that is what I was told), but the celebration at New Year's is a little bigger. 

Here in Georgia, Easter is a completely religious holiday. The Easter Bunny has not yet migrated to this part of the world. Hard boiled eggs are dyed red as a symbol of Christ's blood. The greeting for everyone during the Easter holiday is, "Christ is risen," answered by, "Risen, indeed!" (In Georgian, of course.) 

But what struck me as odd today was hearing that pair of statements out of men who were stone-cold drunk. 

I don't understand it. I know that I am not going to understand it -- mostly because no one can explain to me the reason behind the drinking. If I could hear some persuasive rationale that explained the symbolism behind the need to empty a glass of wine after a toast.... after toast, after toast, after toast.... then I would have no problem with it (minus the damage that such quantities of alcohol wreaks on the body). But liver-health aside, if there were a REASON, I could understand it. "It's our tradition," is not a reason. Add the word "because" with an explanation, and voila! Question answered. But this is a question without an answer.

And hearing a drunk man tell me that Christ is risen doesn't resonate with me as reverential. I have to wonder what God thinks of it.

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