Chichilaki is an important part of celebrating Kalanda, a New Year celebration in Guria, which takes place on January 14 (Kalanda is a Roman word and means the beginning of the month). The preparation for Kalanda starts few days before January 14th. At first, a chichilaki is prepared using “Basila’s beads” (named for St. Basili), cutting a branch of a hazelnut or lukewarm (chameleon) tree, removing its bark and synging it on a flame to dry it, and shaping it to resemble oval-shaped tree. It is attached to a post and arranged with leaves of ivy, churchkhela, fruits, silk and candles.
The day before Kalanda starts with harvesting Hornbeam trees. Men would go to the woods and cut the Hornbeam trees, as it is tradition to burn Hornbeam wood in the fireplace on Kalanda. The main ritual begins early in the morning, when the head of the family arranges the house with chichilaki, pork head, Nazuki. They then walk around the house, wine celler and nalyia three times while praising the god of wine “Aguna“.
Gurians have their own Christmas rituals too: baking a Christmas pie and a pie called “Shrine of the Stomach”. Gurian Christmas pie is a half-moon-shaped khachapuri, filled with a pre-cooked egg and cheese. They will bake different size pies for different members of the family; filling it with different amount of egg, depending whether the pie was for the head of the family, for the youngest member of the family or for a guest. Additionally, there is a pie called “Shrine of the Stomach”, which is small, filled with a whole boiled egg and is similar size for everyone. The matriarch of the family will bless people by moving the pie around another person`s belly and head.