Alilo" Christmas procession in Tbilisi

Catholicos-Patriarch Ilya II blessed the participants in the Christmas procession in the Georgian capital. He greeted the festive procession and distributed sweets and gifts, reports the website, Kavkazsky Udel.

Every year on the feast of the Nativity of Christ, in Georgia people take to the streets in order to take part in the procession called Alilo, bringing gifts for the needy.

Members of the clergy lead the procession bearing icons, crosses and banners, while the laity follow behind them either on foot, or in bull-drawn carts. Children play one of the leading roles in this Christmas procession.

“We have brought chocolates and churchkheli (a Georgian sausage-shaped sweet made of walnuts in an encasement of boiled grape juice). And I like that I can somehow help other children,” said nine-year-old Demetre, as he made his little contribution to the charitable fund.

“This is an old custom. All the children are joyful, and everyone is happy. Today is Christmas, and we greet you with it. May this Christmas bring us and the children all the best!” said Vakhtang, who participated in the procession with his little boy.

Donations gathered at the procession will be given to children’s homes and shelters for the poor.

“Christmas is one of the most important holidays. There is no greater joy than this. After all, today hope for God’s grace is born in people. By our procession, we are saying to each person we meet along our way: rejoice, Jesus Christ is born!” said the Alilo participant Fr. George, as cited by Kavkasky Udel.

The festive procession is traditionally made in Tbilisi, by the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. After a moleben the citizens of Tbilisi return to their homes and continue celebrating the feast of the Nativity with their families.

The feast of Christmas was also celebrated with the Alilo procession in the city of Batumi. Alilo is a venerable old tradition, as one participant there, Tengiz Tavgelidze, related. “Two thousand years ago, when Christ appeared to this world, people walked and announced joyfully to all that the Savior was born. That is why we are all in a festive mood today.”

In fact, Alilo is like our Christmas caroling, called for a tradition that arose in Georgia: on the feast of Nativity of Christ, people walked from house to house collecting alms, which they subsequently gave to the poor.