Sunday, August 10, 2014

SUPRA: Culture Georgian Banquet to Spiritual Side of a Supra

If one is describing Georgian culture, attention must surely be given to the traditional Georgian supra. At first glance it would be described as a banquet at which there is much food, wine, toasting, and singing. However, this does not describe the spiritual side of a supra.

Whenever space allows, the supra is always held at one long table, or a makeshift table of many joined together end to end, running from one room to another, if need be. The table is laden with wine jugs which are always kept full of excellent Georgian wine, and copious amounts of food of all kinds, so much so that the table surface almost disappears.

Each supra has a tamada (the closest English translation is "toastmaster") and is chosen by the host of the supra before the supra begins. Fulfilling one's role as a tamada is an art form in itself. A good tamada is a poet/wit/philosopher/social commentator/orator/singer who creatively improvises a beautiful atmosphere of community, camaraderie and love through his toasts which introduce periods of tranquility and reflection amidst the extroverted energy of table conversation. Through an adroit choice of songs which are sung after every toast, the message of each toast is given more resonance.

The order in which the toasts are given is important. Throughout most of Georgia, the first toast is always to peace, followed by a toast to parents, to brothers and sisters, to those who have passed away (especially to any friend or relative of any person present at the table), to life (especially to the lives of the children of those who have recently passed away), and then to love and friendship.

After all these toasts have been made in this order, the tamada is free to choose his own additional topics, maintaining the established creative flow, usually relating these toasts to the people present or to the occasion which prompted the supra. The topics, to name a few, might be to ancestors, to mothers, to beauty, to creativity, to absent friends who are far away, etc. After any of the evening's toasts, a guest, with the permission of the tamada, can add some thoughts of his or her own with another toast on the same topic. Starting a new topic without the tamada's permission would be a social blunder.

One important rule of the supra is that there should be no negative remarks or toasts, and it is the responsibility of the tamada to ensure that this rule is observed. Another rule of the supra is that one must not be drinking one's wine unless a toast has just been made, and so it is the tamada's responsibility to space out the toasts accordingly, so that everyone has a chance to imbibe, but not so often that people might become too intoxicated. In the hands of a good tamada, a supra is a beautiful, moving experience.


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