How Georgia is celebrating Christmas today

In Tbilisi and several other Georgian cities, Alilo is a theatrical tour involving a lot of animals. Photo by T. Robakidze, 07 Jan 2019 - 11:33, Tbilisi,Georgia

Adherents of the Georgian Orthodox Church are celebrating Christmas today according to the Julian calendar together with other members of the Orthodox world. 

A special liturgy took place at Tbilisi's Holy Trinity Cathedral at midnight last night as Georgia's Patriarch Ilia II led the customary Christmas epistle with a congregation of followers of the Georgian Orthodox Christian Church, including government officials.

The midnight church service is traditionally followed by a march in the streets, called Alilo,  during which participants sing Christmas carols, exchange gifts and give clothes, food and other items to the needy.

Several streets of Tbilisi will be blocked due to the Christmas Alilo march on January 7, the Patrol Police Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs has announced. 

People will start marching from the First Republic Square towards their final destination - the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi. Photo by T. Robakidze

Traffic on First Republic Square will be prohibited from 11:00, while Rustaveli Avenue, Pushkin Street, Baratashvili Street, Avlabari Square, Meskhishvili, Gonashvili and Samreklo streets will be blocked from 14:00. 

Traffic will resume as soon as the Alilo march is finished.

On Christmas night, believers light candles in their homes and place them next to the windows so that the light may be seen from outside. This tradition is observed in memory of the biblical story of Joseph and Mary, who searched for a shelter where Mary would be able to give birth to Jesus.

The Georgian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 7 due to the two - week difference between the Gregorian and Julian calendars.

Religious followers will also celebrate a second New Year on January 14.