Christmas is coming
New Year's Eve is almost here and every storefront is filled with a shockingly massive supply of incredibly large fireworks... even some grocery stores. I'm not talking about the little smoke bombs in the shape of grenades that you can buy at Walmart, I'm talking about Roman candles that are literally the size of baseball bats. Despite the obvious dangers of these high powered explosives, I adore this scene and I adore, even more, the lack of supervision of the 8-year-olds rummaging through them and picking out some sizable cherry bombs that they will be throwing about in alleys later.
Fireworks are an integral part of this city and can be heard at any given time of the day for any reason anyone can think of. Due to the tensions with our much larger neighbor and a war that took place only about a decade ago, its a running joke that when you here explosions outside your apartment that you ask. "Is it fireworks or Russia this time?"
While common throughout the whole year, winter is the high season for colorful explosions, especially on the actual night of New Year's Eve. Georgia is an Orthodox state and celebrates Christmas on the 7th of January. It's more of a holy day than a holiday, the 25th is just any old day here, so New Years get the whole mess of everything combined. Champaign, the countdown family gatherings, and is even the famed night when Santa, AKA Tovalis Babu (Snow Grandfather), comes and delivers presents, but mostly there are fireworks. This year I'll be out of the city for this, but to give you an idea of the in-city spectacle, you have to fully grasp just how unregulated these are. Affordable Russian explosives sold to every human who can see over the counter. No restrictions on where to light them. A city of 3 million people shooting these things off from wherever they stand. As far as I know, there isn't a formal city-funded show, but there wouldn't need to be anyway. At 12:00AM the sky erupts with fire, like a massive ocean of an endless wave of sparkles and endless thunder. Before coming here I wasn't the biggest fan of fireworks. Not for any particular reason, I do enjoy them, but this show is beautiful to me in its lawlessness, insanity and the incredible magnitude of it all.
In a nutshell, this is one of the many things I really enjoy about this place. I walked into the hardware store to get some lightbulbs as a few of mine had blown in a recent power surge in my building. I ran into my neighbor, though we really primarily converse through hand gestures, I have come to see him as a friend. We say our pleasantries as he's walking out and exchange a bro hug. I set the bulbs on the table and look over at a large mortar shell rack. I turn it over to check the price. It's 40 lari (about 13 bucks) I set the massive explosive box on the table next to the light bulbs. "tis the season" I think to myself.