The Chichilaki ( ჩიჩილაკი) is an ancient Georgian traditional Christmas tree made from dried up hazelnut or walnut branches that are shaved to form a small coniferous tree. These pale-colored ornaments differ in height from 20 to 3 meters. Even if they are mostly common in the Guria and Samegrelo regions near the Black Sea, but they can also be found in some stores around the capital of Tbilisi.
The traditional making of chichilakis is an important part of the Georgian Orthodox Christmas, which is observed on January 7. The Georgians believe that the shaved tree resembles the famous beard of St. Basil the Great, who is thought to visit people during Christmas similar to the Santa Claus tradition. It is also believed that the chichilakis represent the tree of life, a symbol of hope for the Georgians.
Every year, people flock to stalls to buy chichilakis and decorate them with small fruits and berries. Apples, pomegranates, and madder are attached to the tree as offerings to heaven for a bountiful harvest.
The chichilakis are then ceremoniously burning on the day before the Georgian Orthodox Epiphany on January 19, to symbolize the passing of the previous year’s troubles.
During the Soviet occupation of Georgia in 1921, the sale of chichilakis was banned because the Soviets viewed it as a religious symbol.