This wonderful New Year story really happened with the journalist of agenda.ge, Lali Tsertsvadze. We ask her to write a blog to show you what the power of neighbourhood in Georgia is.
The night Santa Claus came to my house is something I will never forget.
My sister and I were sitting around a New Year feast, talking about how delightful my sisters gozinaqi (a traditional Georgian sweet made of caramelized walnuts fried in honey, served exclusively on New Years Eve and Christmas) was, when I heard the doorbell ring.
As I opened the door, I saw a tall, chubby man in Santa Clauss outfit.
My first thought was that it was a Call Santa, who drank too much, mixed up addresses and while some children were waiting for him elsewhere, he was standing at my front door with a shy smile on his face.
Then, without waiting for me to say anything, he stepped in and said "Happy New Year in a deep voice.
I knew that voice. I knew it. Wait what? Oh, my and we gave each other a huge hug.
The Santa Claus turned out to be Gizo, my former neighbour who had moved out of our neighbourhood about ten years earlier. I had not seen him since then.
Then I started thinking about what had made Gizo come back on New Years Eve after so many years away.
Georgian neighbourhoods form a very close community. If I look at the multistory buildings that surround my block, I can easily recall all the names of the people in each flat. Weird, isn't it!
This probably has some deeper roots but one of the reasons dates back to 90s.
That was the time when in my entire neighbourhood (which was quite large with at least 300 families), there was only one TV-set that would work. It was ours. We very rarely had electricity at that time. So my father got a tiny, black-and-white TV-set that he used to charge with a car battery.
Every single night all my neighbours would gather in a small room at my place, heated by a wood-burning stove and watch some Brazilian soap operas together. As there were not enough chairs for everyone, some would sit on the floor.
Once, I remember a lady living in a building opposite ours asked my mom not to close the curtains in the evenings so she would be able to watch TV through the window from her flat. Good eyesight was needed, obviously.
Besides the TV-set, my family also had the only telephone in the whole neighbourhood. Not that we were rich or anything. Both my parents were communications engineers, that is the reason why we had a phone at home. As for the rest of the neighbourhood, telephone wiring had not been done yet there. No need to say that no one had cell-phones at that time.
A lot of people used to call us and ask if they could talk to some of our neighbours on the phone. As the calls were expensive and some of our neighbours lived quite far from us, we would ask the caller to phone back in ten minutes. Meanwhile, someone would run to the neighbours to let them know a phone call was waiting for them. Or, if the distance was not too long, we would shout at them directly from the balcony.
Can you imagine a life like this? No, can you really imagine?
Looking back on all these experiences, I wonder how we are now living such a normal life.
Once, I moved to Lithuania for several months. I cooked some Georgian food and gave some of it to my next-door neighbour. She found it so surprising. That was when I first realized that things that I find normal in Georgia might be really unusual somewhere else. A close-knit neighbourhood is one of these things.
And that is exactly what made Gizo turn into Santa Claus and surprise us that New Years Eve after ten years.