“Spending on feasting and wine is better than hoarding our substance…”
A supra is a traditional—and often extravagant—Georgian meal that is largely considered to be the center of Georgian social life. Far more than a celebratory feast, it’s a tradition for the ages, a religious rite, and a national identity all in one. For every one of life’s celebrations—from births and birthdays to homecomings and welcomes; weddings and anniversaries to funerals—there’s a supra. Sometimes, a supra can even be held “just because.”
The supra gets its name from the Georgian word for tablecloth – signifying the place the feast’s dishes are meant to cover. Moreover, during a supra, food and wine are seemingly endless—and the plates pile up several deep to ensure the tablecloth is covered.
While specific aspects of the meal may vary from family to family, and some elements may differ depending on the formality or purpose of a particular feast, many things about the supra are universal traditions. It is those shared rituals that have built community, identity, and spirituality over generations.
Among them, and perhaps the most essential, is the presence of a Tamada, or toastmaster, who leads the toasts around which the entire supra feast revolves.
Toasts upon toasts. Courses upon courses.
A skilled Tamada can effectively evoke the spirits of shared community and culture—which for many Georgians has a deep association with wine. At the very beginning of every supra, the Tamada extends the first toast to the motherland—Georgia—and then offers a toast to God. Next, the Tamada offers a toast to the people in the room considered closest to divine: the guests.
Georgian culture honors hospitality above all. In fact, guests are believed to be heaven-sent gifts. Generations of Georgian families have passed down a tradition of limitless respect of guests and celebration of their duties as hosts. With these values underpinning Georgian culture, it’s no surprise that guests are honored with the supra toast right after God and country.
As the feast progresses, so do the rounds of toasts. Each round begins with a toast by the Tamada, who empties his glass. Guests are expected to follow suit, and they may offer toasts of their own in the theme of that round. Meanwhile, courses of food appear, each more substantial than the one before—from herb salads to bread with spreads; khachapuri (cheese bread) to roasted meats, then sweets—until the plates are piled high all over the table.
More than a feast, the supra fosters an extraordinary connection among people who have broken bread together. It cultivates an intimacy that knits them uncommonly to one another and to generations of those who have feasted and toasted and celebrated before them.