Easter in Armenia
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.