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New Year in Abkhazia is regeneration2010-01-10 08:57
Abkhazia is a country whose traditions resist new trends. Customs are not just remembered they are still followed. Their essence is meaningful in today's life. The New Year, for instance, is celebrated with more splendor on January 13 (according to the old-style calendar), not December 31. This day is called "regeneration" or "creation of the world".
Ajirnikhua or Khechkhuama, is the name of the Old New Year. In Abkhazia it's an official day-off.
The holiday of regeneration or creation of the world has pagan roots in the country's past and is connected with the worship of god Shashva - the patron of blacksmiths. Smithcraft in Abkhazia was highly respected. A smith shop used to be a sacred place - vows and oaths were pronounced there.
On that day roosters and goats were immolated to Shashva. It was supposed to be a ritually pure gelded he-goat or an innocent white she-goat. And the number of roosters to be cut is equal to persons expected to sit at table.
Khechkhuama gathers all relatives of the father's side in the family's sanctuary (the smith shop). Representatives of other clans (the wife's and daughter-in-law's) stay at home.
Though most Abkhaz consider themselves Orthodox and celebrate Christmas and Epiphany pagan customs are still strong here. Remember the story with the prayer tree in Chegem described by Fasil Iskander.
Viktor Kolesnikov who was born in Abkhazia told in an interview with Russian journalists that to check whether an Abkhaz is lying is easy in a sacred forest. Afraid of god's wrath the person won't tell lies and most probably will turn down the invitation.
Tskhasheroup is the key concept in the life of Abkhazians meaning "shameful" or "awkward". "If a person born in this country feels uneasy to say something he/she would rather not do it even if he/she is right", - Kolesnikov says. - Each Abkhaz has powerful male self and an internal core which can be broken but not bent down".
It is not incidental that Abkhazians call their country Apsny - the country of soul, and they are people of soul, their language - apssha - the song of soul.
Searching for reasons to make Abkhazia revoke independence Georgians call Abkhazians an ethnos of the Georgian nation like Svans or Megrels. But this is wrong.
The history of the Abkhaz statehood is as ancient as in Georgia. And Abkhazia was not always part of Georgia. Instead of disputing with Georgians writer Fasil Iskander in Novaya Gazeta article quoted Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedia edited in 1890.