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Good wishes for the New Year start early in Georgia

By Eter Tsotniashvili
Tuesday, December 18

On December 17, Orthodox Christendom celebrates St Barbara’s Day, or Barbaroba to Georgians, who would also caution you to behave nicely —- or risk facing a miserable year.

According to legend, Barbara was born to a rich, polytheistic family in a Roman province sometime around 300 AD. Her conversion to Christianity was enough to have her condemned to an extremely violent death.

The day in her honor is more pleasant. In Georgia, lobiani (a bean-based pastry) is traditionally baked by every family to mark the yearly occasion. December 17 falls in a period of fasting for the Georgian Orthodox devout, but lobiani is fit for the eating.

Georgian believers associate the day with matters of fate: however one spends December 17 determines how the rest of the year goes. No surprise, then, that many make an effort to say nice things and be as agreeable as possible. Not everyone buys into it, though.

“I don’t believe this day has any connection with my fate,” says Nini, a student. “I was at the dentist today, and I don’t want to be running back to him all year long.”

There is also a superstitious importance placed on the first person to enter a family’s home on St Barbara’s Day. Ideally, one wants a good-hearted and devout person to be the first guest of the day, setting up the household for a lucky year to come.

Elsewhere, St Barbara is often named as the patron saint for all manners of hazardous occupations, like mining and artillery posts. In Georgia, however, she is considered a patron saint of children, and appealed to for curing sick children and assisting in conception.

One of the more popular saints in the canon, there are at least four churches named after her in Tbilisi alone, according to the Patriarchate, the oldest dating to the 8th century AD. Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II led a congregation in prayer at a church of St Barbara in the capital.

Mari Khositashvili, a weekly churchgoer, says she always takes day to celebrate with her family.

“St Barbara was one of the most important saints in our history,” Khositashvili said.

Beka Akobia, a parishioner from central Tbilisi’s landmark Sameba Church, urged the flock-at-large to go to church and pray.

“I always celebrate this day with my family and always try to spend the day well, to allow for many good things to happen during the rest of the year,” he said.