Cultural Travel - Georgia

    close to people - close to tradition


The golden table


The Georgian "supra" has through centuries been one of the most significant social and cultural institutions in Georgia. We are talking about the traditional Georgian feast that units all the main cornerstones in Georgian culture and tradition, such as wine, the Georgian Orthodox Church, cuisine, folk songs, poetry, folk dance, hospitality, etc. The traditional Georgian feast is often considered as an "educational institution": Here important questions and issues in life are discussed, ideas are exchanged and friendships are established or consolidated, all in a warm and including atmosphere.

The head of the "supra" is tamada. In contrast to a toast- master the tamada is in charge of the feast and the table, and is also in charge of proposing all the toasts. Different subjects and issues are addressed through the toasts, and when tamada has finished his speech the rest of the table is free to take the word and drink the toast, however within the scope of the subject that was proposed by the tamada.

There are rules for what toasts tamada is obliged to propose, how and when they are supposed to be performed and also for the behavior at the table in general. This is anyway only the formal framework. The soul, spirit and passion that can make the "supra" a unique experience, depend very much on tamada's abilities, the mood and involvement from the rest of the table, and finally what cultural and traditional "ingredients" that are available: The Georgian wine is playing a main role as mean and inspiration for discussions and conversations.  Furthermore,  on a  real  "supra"  there are


always people mastering the tradition of folk song, folk dance and poetry. These are woven into the toasts and the events at the table, and a skilled tamada should himself master all of them. He will use these means to create his own perspectives and flavor to the mandatory toasts, such as for peace, family, ancestors, our countries, etc. But tamada should also improvise new toasts and use all his abilities and artistic skills creating the ultimate atmosphere: A symbiosis of discussions, artistic expressions, humor and improvisation, waving around the table in vibrant interaction with tamada's toasts and under his friendly leadership.

Unfortunately the tradition of "supra" is partly being diluted during the latest period. Even if tradition and folklore holds a very important position for most Georgians, the ability of mastering a wide range of tradition and folklore is a slowly vanishing art. Today there are occasions where the "supra" turns into a formalized exercise only with the "correct" toasts performed in standardized manners. Such events are becoming just as superficial and boring as the real "supra" is magic and evolving.

Another aspect is that in a rapid changing Georgian society with economic and social challenges, the table tradition can become an excuse to simply get drunk and forget. On the other hand Georgians are also going in the opposite direction of the same reason: It becomes more important than ever to stand guard over the real "supra" and Georgian tradition in general.


Tamada - the chief of the Georgian table. Ivane Japaridze. Photo: Svend Waage © all rights reserved.