Thousands of Georgians take part in a centuries-old Christmas charity procession called Alilo, during which donations for the poor and disabled are collected. Rough Cut - subtitled (no reporter narration)
ROUGH CUT - SUBTITLED (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Georgian worshipers celebrated Orthodox Christmas in the capital Tbilisi with a charity street procession called "Alilo." The centuries-old tradition was banned in the Soviet times, but the traditional carols have been passed down from generation to generation. The songs are sung in different forms in all parts of Georgia, but all versions share the same lyrics, focusing on Biblical themes such as the birth of Christ. The procession participants wore national costumes, and many depicted Biblical characters from the nativity story such as shepherds, soldiers and other religious figures. Thousands, led by clergy walked through the center of Tbilisi, stopping from time to time to collect presents and donations from different organizations, politicians and the public. Georgian parliament speaker David Bakradze joined the procession, joining other MPs with baskets of gifts. "This is a traditional Georgian celebration, which was restored a few years ago and it is a celebration devoted to joy, devoted to charity, to happiness and it is all about Christmas. Christmas is about happiness, Christmas is about charity, and about giving presents and giving out positive emotions to others. So, this is the celebration and you see a lot of people participate, everybody is happy and we also try to put aside politics, to put aside political differences and to participate as ordinary people trying to radiate and give our share of joy to the common sense of joy, which you see around us in the streets," said Bakradze. Georgia's Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Ilia revived the Alilo charity tradition following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, when Georgia announced its independence. The Christmas Alilo procession was led by clergy who collected donations from the crowd for the poor, disabled and orphans. Zaal Sikharulidze, the chairman of patriotic organization ''Chokhosanta Dasi", wished the country success in the coming year. "I give Christmas congratulations to my Orthodox country. I wish Georgia prosperity and unity. I wish the Georgian people happiness, wealth and peace in their families," said Sikharulidze as he marched along the procession. Similar processions took place in most of the towns and villages of Georgia, which took Christianity as its state religion as early as the beginning of the fourth century. Orthodox Christianity has become a symbol of national identity and unity for Georgians, after the turbulent years following the declaration of the country's independence.