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Wednesday, 26 October 2016


Georgian dilemma: to drink or not to drink?

2010-01-05 10:57

5037.jpegUniqueness of Georgian table feasts, their amiability, generous treating, singing and numerous toasts are known far beyond the country. However not all in Georgia are pleased with all that. Maybe for the first time general public has raised the alcohol addiction issue that is becoming an alarming phenomenon in the blessed land of Sakartvelo.


It is a revelation to no one, in Russia particularly, that a Georgian feast has rich traditions. Besides now all countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union, preserve the wise Georgian custom of a toast-master (tamada) as sweet legacy of a once united home. There is no real feast without a tamada in Russia either.

By the way there was no such a word as "tamada" in the Russian language before the end of the 19th century. Neither was it recorded in Arab, Turkish or Persian dictionaries. All that made scholars believe that the word "tamada" entered the Georgian life centuries ago and was later borrowed by neighbors. This is how it made its way to the Russian language.

First mention of "tamadovstvo" is in David Chubinishvili's Georgian-Russian dictionary edited in 1887. Only in 1940 the word "tamada" turns up in the Explanatory Dictionary of the Russian Language under the editorship of D.N. Uskakov with a note that it's a Georgian borrowing.

The new word firmly established itself in the huge multi-national country and started to live its own life. The tamada rite was adopted with local peculiarities. That is why to fully understand the roots of this sage custom it has to be experienced in Georgia. Here the unique rite of feast management has been constantly updated. You will be told and shown what part a real tamada plays - this is a dignified and respected person, expert in the art of feast knowing all the rules of it.

And the rules are much more than a few. A tamada is supposed to be able to combine wise speeches and witty toasts, create a kind, light and merry atmosphere at the table. In a word a tamada is not only an administrator but also decoration of the feast. To be a tamada, as you will learn, is not merely an art, it's a gift of God for this involves intelligence, tact, a talent to manage the mood of others so that a good feast didn't turn into an ugly booze-up and wine consumption was moderate and joyful.

Alas, Georgia's incurable disease over the recent time has been alcohol addiction. Specialists are at a loss: it's a very strange phenomenon for a society with deep winemaking traditions and culture of drinking. Statistics provide no specific figures so far. Experts only note that the structure of alcohol consumption has drastically changed inside the country.

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