Public Holidays in Armenia
|Holiday||2020||2021||History and Significance|
|New Year||Tue-Sat Dec 31, 2019 - Jan 4, 2020||Thu-Mon Dec 31, 2020 - Jan 4, 2021||One of the most awaited state holidays in Armenia. Armenian New Year celebrations start on the last day of the old year and continue throughout the ensuing four days. The key element of the holiday is paying visits to relatives and friends to show respect and offer New Year wishes. Towards the end of the celebration some Armenians start to fast to prepare themselves mentally and physically for the approaching Christmas.|
|Christmas||Sun-Tue, Jan 5-7, 2020||Tue-Thu, Jan 5-7, 2021||Christmas in Armenia is celebrated in the traditions of the Armenian Apostolic Church and is combined with the Feast of Epiphany, which commemorates the revelation of God incarnating as Jesus Christ. Armenian Christmas has a deeply religious meaning and is preceded by a week-long-fast.|
|National Army Day||Tue, Jan 28, 2020||Thu, Jan 28, 2021||National Army Day honors the Armed Forces of Armenia, created in 1992, several months after the country declared its independence from the Soviet Union.|
|Women’s Day||Sun, Mar 8, 2020||Mon, Mar 8, 2021||The tradition of celebrating International Women’s Day dates back in Armenia to the early days of the Soviet Union. Today the holiday marks the beginning of a female-centered month focused on promoting the importance of women’s roles in Armenian society, history and culture.|
|Genocide Remembrance Day||Fri, Apr 24, 2020||Sat, Apr 24, 2021||On April 24, 1915, the ruling Ottoman Empire began a series of arrests aimed at Armenian intellectuals living in Constantinople. The arrests expanded into a genocide that cost the lives of more than one million Armenians and eradicated their presence within the Ottoman territories.|
|Labor Day||Fri, May 1, 2020||Sat, May 1, 2021||Armenia is among 66 countries which celebrates International Workers’ Day on May 1. The holiday was briefly abolished after the country proclaimed its independence from the USSR in 1991. It was restored in 2005 and has been celebrated ever since.|
|Yerkrapah Day||Fri, May 8, 2020||Sat, May 8, 2020||This holiday pays homage to the Yerkrapah Union of Veterans, a non-governmental group of Nagorno-Karabakh War veterans.|
|Victory Day||Sat, May 9, 2020||Sun, May 9, 2021||Day of the Victory over Fascism is celebrated in Armenia with a military parade, fireworks and large cultural events. The holiday is combined with the Shusha Liberation Day commemorating the victory of Armenian forces over the Azerbaijani army at the town of Shusha during the Nagorno-Karabakh War.|
|Day of the First Republic||Thu, May 28, 2020||Fri, May 28, 2021||This festivity commemorates the establishment of the independent Republic of Armenia in 1918, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution.|
|Constitution Day||Sun, Jul 5, 2020||Mon, Jul 5, 2021||Also marked as the Day of State Symbols, Constitution Day pays homage to the 1995 Constitution of Armenia.|
|Exaltation of the Holy Cross||Mon, Sep 13, 2020||Sun, Sep 12, 2021||This holiday pays homage to the True Cross on which Christ was crucified, an artifact seized by Persians and recaptured by Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, who returned it to Jerusalem. En route, the emperor passed through Armenia, where the cross was venerated by Armenian Christians.|
|Armenian Independence Day||Mon, Sep 21, 2020||Tue, Sep 21, 2021||A holiday focused on the referendum of September 21, 1991, in which the people of Armenia voted in favor of independence from the Soviet Union.|
Holidays in Armenia
Armenia public holidays bolster a sense of unity and national pride and are a central part of the Armenian calendar. Whether the events commemorated are joyful or tragic, they are always celebrated with fervor.
Visiting Armenia during one of its national holidays is a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the country's long history and rich culture. Since each holiday commemorates a unique event and thus differs in how it is celebrated, we have provided a short description of the most important anniversaries below, which you can use to help you select a festival that fits your interests.
The New Year celebration is a big deal in Armenia. Marked with a joyful atmosphere, lavish holiday decorations and social and cultural events galore, it is a fascinating mix of religious and secular activities.
The celebration starts on New Year's Eve, when many people head to churches to participate in the New Year liturgy. One of the highlights of this service is the blessing of pomegranates, a national symbol of Armenia. Once the service is over, people head home to enjoy the evening. Tables bend under the weight of traditional Armenian New Year dishes and drinks as friends and families gather to celebrate. People hope that the arriving year will be as plenteous as the food that they serve.
Shortly before midnight, relatives gather to swap gifts and exchange wishes. Younger kids await a visit by Dzmer Pap or "Grandfather Winter," an Armenian version of Santa Claus. At the stroke of midnight, fireworks, toasts, and New Year greetings resound throughout the country, and the parties continue well into the night.
In many countries, January 1 is a day dedicated to recuperation after the New Year's festivities. Not in Armenia, though! During the first days of the New Year, Armenians traditionally go through an intense period of visiting family members and friends. The meetings take place in a hierarchical order, from the most crucial family members, such as parents, to more remote relatives and friends. People get offended if you do not visit them, so Armenians take special care to leave no one out.
Armenian Christmas is celebrated on January 6, together with the Feast of Epiphany that celebrates the revelation of God incarnating as Jesus Christ.
The holiday has a profoundly religious meaning, and some people prepare for it by undertaking a week-long fast, which they finish on January 5 after the Christmas Eve service.
The Christmas Eve meal is called khetum. Since it ends the fast, khetum usually consists of lighter dishes such as rice, greens, a yogurt-based wheat soup called tanabur, dried fruit and nuts. Wine is drunk as a symbol of the blood of Jesus.
In the evening, Armenians light candles in their homes and churches to symbolize the arrival of God.
The following day, people head to churches to commemorate the Epiphany, the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. As a part of the liturgy, priests consecrate water for parishioners to take home to cleanse their bodies and bless their households.
On January 7, people remember their deceased relatives by visiting their tombs, adorning them with flowers and leaving Christmas foods near the graves as offerings. They also recount stories of their loved ones, raising toasts in their memory.
National Army Day was established in 2001 to honor the Armed Forces of Armenia, which were formed on January 28, 1992 during the aftermath of Armenia’s independence from the Soviet Union.
Typically, government officials will visit Yerablur Military Cemetery to pay homage to Armenian soldiers who perished in the Nagorno-Karabakh War (1988-1994). A massive military parade is also held in Yerevan.
Armenia, as a part of the Soviet Union, began to celebrate International Women's Day as early as the 1920s.
After the collapse of the USSR, the festivity was abandoned, and the Armenian Church began to promote April 7 as a holiday dedicated to motherhood and the Virgin Mary. However, the new event garnered little interest among the people, who continued to celebrate March 8 just as they had for decades. Eventually, the Armenian government restored March 8 as a state holiday in 2000.
International Women's Day is traditionally celebrated with men and boys gifting flowers and presents to women close to their hearts – mothers, wives, grandmothers, sisters, girlfriends, female friends and colleagues. It also marks the beginning of a month-long period during which women-oriented concerts, exhibitions, fairs and folk festivals are held across the country. The festivities come to an end with the April 7 celebrations, which despite not being granted the status of state holiday, maintain an element of religious importance.
For a country with such a long history with Christianity, it may come as a surprise that none of the days preceding and following Easter are considered Armenian public holidays. Still, this religiously significant holiday is counted among the most essential in Armenia and thus deserves mention.
Like in other Christian countries, Easter in Armenia is also preceded by 40 days of Lent and the Holy Week. Since the observance of the holiday is based on the lunar calendar, the dates of the festival change every year.
On the night of Holy Saturday, Armenians gather in churches to pray and light candles. Armenian Christians follow the tradition, inherited from the Hebrew calendar, of a new day beginning after sunset versus at midnight. Hence, once it gets dark, an Easter Vigil is held to announce the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Vigil is marked with parishioners taking home burning candles, the fire of which is considered sacred and symbolic of the Holy Fire that is said to miraculously appear every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
As Easter Sunday begins, people greet each other with declarations of "Christ is risen!" Families gather over the table to feast and celebrate the new beginning.
Traditional Easter delicacies include boiled or baked fish and pilaf flavored with dried apricots, prunes and raisins, plus greens, dyed red eggs and wine. Each dish has a deep symbolic meaning connected to the Christian tradition.
After the meal, families engage in an egg cracking competition: Each person chooses one red egg and taps it, end to end, on their opponent's egg. The person whose egg does not break wins the game.
Easter Monday is dedicated to paying homage to the deceased. Families visit graves of their loved ones, cleaning them and decorating them with fresh flowers and candles. Priests pray over the tombs and people give lengthy toasts to those who have passed away. The visits are conducted in a joyful atmosphere amid the hope of reuniting with the dead in the afterlife.
This most somber of Armenian state holidays commemorates the victims of the Armenian Genocide.
The date is not accidental for this Armenian ‘holiday’. On April 24, 1915, hundreds of representatives of the Armenian intelligentsia were arrested in Constantinople by Turkish authorities. They were then moved to two holding centers near Angora (nowadays Ankara). The arrests expanded into massacres of Armenian men conducted throughout the Ottoman Empire. Women, children, and the elderly were exiled into the Syrian Desert, where most of them died or were kidnapped and enslaved by other ethnic groups. The genocide is estimated to have cost the lives of more than one million people.
The first Remembrance Day was held by a group of genocide survivors in 1919 in Istanbul. The date began to be observed regularly, and Armenians all over the globe began to advocate for its international recognition.
In 1975, the U.S. House of Representatives recognized April 24 as the National Day of Remembrance of Man's Inhumanity to Man. In 1988, the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic adopted April 24 as a public holiday. Since then, Argentina, Canada and France have also recognized the genocide in one form or another.
Today, on each anniversary, hundreds of thousands of Armenians participate in a mourning procession that marches silently through the streets of Yerevan to the Armenian Genocide Memorial. Each mourner brings flowers to place at the site, paying homage to their relatives and countrymen who lost their lives in the massacre.
Like many other countries, Armenia also celebrates Labor Day, or International Workers' Day, on May 1.
The origins of the holiday lie with the Eight-Hour Day Movement held by American workers beginning in the 1860s. By the 1890s, it was observed only in Western Europe and the United States, although on different dates. However, together with the rise of communism, the International Worker's Day also reached China, North Korea, Cuba and the Soviet Union. Today, 66 countries celebrate May 1 as Labor Day.
In Armenia, Labor Day was abolished after the country proclaimed its independence from the USSR in 1991, yet the holiday was reestablished in 2005 due to popular demand.
Armenians celebrate Labor Day with parades, concerts and other cultural events dedicated to the working class. The holiday is also often used as an opportunity for political manifestations.
This state holiday is dedicated to the members of the Yerkrapah Union of Veterans, a non-governmental group of Nagorno-Karabakh War veterans. The celebration received official status in 2001.
Yerkrapah Day celebrations are typically combined with Victory Day festivities on May 9.
May 9 is also known as the Day of the Victory over Fascism or Victory and Peace Day. Armenia celebrates this day with great pomp, with military parades, air shows, concerts and political speeches lasting most of the day. Veterans gather to speak about their experiences and receive homage from the younger generations, and the highest members of the Armenian government and clergy lay flowers at the statue of Mother Armenia to commemorate the Armenian martyrs of the Second World War.
Like many other state holidays in Armenia, this official observance is also relatively modern. It was established in the early 1990s to commemorate the 1918 proclamation of the independent Republic of Armenia, an event which took place in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the collapse of the tsarist regime.
The new state lasted only two years but played a crucial role in building the Armenians' sense of statehood and national unity.
Today, to pay homage to the First Republic, streets are decorated with national flags. Cultural events, military parades, public speeches and firework shows are held across the country. The President of Armenia also places flowers at the Sardarapat Memorial to commemorate a victorious battle in which the new republic had to fight against the Turks, who attempted to annex the land in 1918.
This holiday commemorates the 1995 Constitution of Armenia that was drafted after the country declared its independence from the Soviet Union. Once adopted, the constitution became a foundation for a democratically elected, multi-party government.
Constitution Day is also marked as the Day of State Symbols - the flag, the coat of arms and the anthem.
Armenians usually spend the day with their families, participating in events organized to promote Armenia's history and culture and watching evening fireworks.
From a religious point of view, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is one of the most significant state holidays in Armenia. The holiday refers to the True Cross on which Christ was crucified. The artifact was seized by Persians who, in the 7th century, besieged and plundered Jerusalem. Byzantine Emperor Heraclius recaptured the cross and returned it to its original place. En route, the emperor passed through Armenia, where the cross was repeatedly elevated and adored by local Christians.
Today, a special ceremony called antasdan is held to commemorate the triumphant return of the True Cross. During the ceremony parishioners led by clergy march in a procession with a large cross that has been decorated with basil, a symbol of royalty. The crowd heads to a field which symbolizes the World, and priests bless each corner of the area to ensure that "divine care" is shown towards its inhabitants.
Armenia’s Independence Day celebrates the anniversary of the referendum of September 21, 1991, in which the people of Armenia voted in favor of independence from the Soviet Union. The following November, Levon Ter-Petrosyan became the first president of sovereign Armenia.
To commemorate Armenia’s Independence Day, a national awards ceremony is usually held in which the President of Armenia honors military veterans and upstanding citizens. Special events promoting Armenian history and culture take place throughout the country, and during major anniversaries, a large military parade is held in Yerevan.
National holidays in Armenia allow visitors to view the country's history and culture from a unique perspective. Whether secular or religious, the festivities are always an excellent opportunity to interact with Armenians and better understand how this ancient nation views the world and its place within it.