Winter Holidays in Armenia
Calendar of Winter Holidays in Armenia
New Year’s Day
As far back as in the end of XIX century with joining to Russian Empire, Armenia began to celebrate the beginning of calendar year with bright and funny holiday with traditional feast, gifts under decorated New-Year’s tree, salutes and petards. Almost for century this holiday became so favorite one for people that became the good tradition for centuries. And today people of Armenia still look forward the magic moment of New Year’s coming.
It must be said that even in the most difficult moments, when the country was ruined by wars and elements, and even if at the frugal table and without light, but New Year’s Day was celebrated by every family. And today, in peacetime the New Year’s Day is broadly celebrated on national basis. Especially the capital city is transformed on these days. In Yerevan New Year’s celebrations begin since December 30. The huge beautiful New-Year tree is set on the main square of Republic, around which the fairy town and numerous rites appear. In the afternoon kids gather on the square in expectation of funny fairy performance with the participation of Grandfather Frost, Snow Maiden and other favorite fairy-tale characters. And in the evening of December 31 the grand fabulous show-program: festive concert with participation of Armenian pop-stars and the best DJ of the city starts here, which gradually turns into disco party. And at midnight the sky is lit up with flashes of festive salute, which is arranged in all large cities of Armenia.
Armenians are the committed Christian people, which hold sacred all Christian rites and holidays. And as for all Christians of the whole world, the greatest church holiday in Armenia is the Christmas.
The joyous holiday of Holy Nativity is celebrated in Armenia the day before than it is observed in Russia. Exactly on the night of January 6 – as it is prescribed by canons of Armenian Apostolic Church. In combination with Holy Nativity Armenia celebrates the Feast of Epiphany. The Eve of Christmas is called in Armenian language “chralaguyts”. This is the time when in all churches the candles are lit, and the priests sing special ancient spiritual hymn "Great wonderful sacrament”. In the morning, believers gather in churches on Christmas liturgy and the Communion. Then the Great Blessing of Waters is performed, when the water in the font, symbolizing the Jordan River, is sanctified by Life-giving Holy Cross, and then is handed out to parishioners as a healing body and soul. As in Russia, Christmas in Armenia is the great family holiday, which gathers at festive, richly laid table the whole family.
St. Sarkis Day
In the whole world the patron of all lovers is the Saint Valentine, whose celebration is observed on February 14. But Armenia has its own national patron of all loving hearts. It is the Saint Sarkis. He served as the commander at the court of Byzantine king Constantine and was one of the first Armenians, adopted the Christian religion. According to the legend, Sarkis met the death of martyr, denying of apostasy. But it is unknown when and who invented the beautiful legend about Sarkis, but it was the legend which made him the favorite saint of all Armenian lovers. The legend says that insidious emperor intended to kill Sarkis and his army. After great feast, when all forty soldiers intoxicated went to sleep, forty girls on the order of emperor thrust the sharp daggers in the hearts of slept young men. Only one of them disobeyed the order: enchanted by the beauty of Sarkis, she passionately kissed him. Sarkis awoke, distraught by what he saw, he jumped on his horse, not forgetting his savior, and dashed away... Since then, a rider on white horse has become a symbol of holiday of all Armenian lovers. This holiday is full of not only romance but also a set of wonderful customs, rituals and traditions. Especially the youth is fond of this holiday. On the evening before the holiday the unmarried girls and single guys pray to the saint, asking for help in their love affairs, eat salty cakes to see in a dream of their betrothed. It is believed that on this night St. Sarkis with his beloved visit homes of all Armenians who left for him on the roof or on the verge the dish with milled roasted wheat. And if in the morning the meal has the trace of the horse's hoof, the great success is expected in one’s personal life.
In the morning, boys and girls gather in the church, where the celebratory liturgy takes place, and then go directly to celebrate. Usually they gather in the big house, cook meals, jump over a bonfire, allegedly purifying from past mistakes and sins, dance and have fun.
It is one of new holidays of Armenia –the day, when already independent Armenia made the decision to establish own national army. It happened in 1992. And since 2002, the 28th of January is officially adopted as day of rest. It may be thought by mistake that this date is celebrated only by military men. Not, for the majority of Armenians this holiday is another reason to fell the proud for their country and for their brave defenders. Traditionally on this day they remember heroes of Armenia, fell in battles for the defense of the Motherland. In Yerevan people carry flowers to the memorials of Sardarapat, Yerablur and to other pantheons. Many events are timed to this date.
But on February 14 together with Valentine's Day Armenians celebrate another national holiday - Terendez. What customs and traditions are not mixed up in this wonderful funny action? The main symbol of the holiday is the bonfire, bringing something pagan from the Russian Maslenitsa and Kupala Day, the main heroes of the holiday are the couple or the newlywed, as in the holiday of All lovers, in addition on this day The Meeting of Lord (Candlemas) is celebrated, so this holiday has the religious background too.
This holiday began to be widely celebrated in modern Armenia quite recently. Up to date it is considered more church holyday, than temporal one, but ordinary people have already come to love it for the good symbolism of customs and atmosphere of romance. The main rite on this holiday is jumping over the bonfire. At that, it is made by either newlyweds or bride and groom. To the sounds of Duduk couples pass round the bonfire 7 times, and then jump over it. It symbolizes the purification. The main thing is not unclasp the hands, that the union be strong. During the ritual, elders of the clan pour on the heads of newlywed wheat that abundance be in their life. Childless women, who desire to have children, also can jump over the bonfire. The holiday is concluded with general hilarity, dances around the bonfire and rich feast, on which Armenian hostesses has real savvy.
Vardanank is one of the most ancient Armenian holidays. Its history has origin almost in the beginning of our epoch, or more exactly in 451, when the bloody struggle between Armenian people and Persians occurred on Avarayr Plain (now the territory of Armenia). Persians, being on that period the rulers of Eastern part of Armenia, decided to convert Armenians to paganism. And only with gun Armenians could defend their Christian religion. The Commander Vardan Mamikoryan led the small Armenian army. At the same time Persians set out with the army of many thousands. The result of battle was obvious, but no one knows how Armenians could destroy the most part of enemy forces. Meeting with such fierce resistance, Persians gave up the infringement of Armenian religion. Even loosing the battle, Armenians came out of it as victors. The church sainted the Commander Vardan Mamikonyan, and the Battle day became the popular holiday, symbolizing the unity of nation and love to their land and faith. Today, as well as many centuries ago, Vardanank is glorified and honored in Armenia. At this holiday everyone can participate in festive divine service, and than in cross procession, which is held in Yerevan. In begins from the Surb Zoravor Church (Saint Commander) and is concluded near the monument of Vardan Mamikonyan.
Books donation day
There is young, but very interesting holiday in Armenia. It is called the day of gift of books. Not so long ago writers of Armenia remembered that earlier in Armenia it was such tradition to give books to each other. Just like that, without particular reason. It was decided to revive the cordial tradition, and designate it as official holiday date - February 19 - the birthday of a famous Armenian writer Ovanes Tumanyan. Now on this day the remarkable good actions are arranged in every educational and cultural institutions of the country: adults give books to children - preschoolers, schoolchildren and students, reading rooms and libraries are open, meetings with writers and many other interesting things are arranged.
Day of Remembrance for Victims of Earthquake (Spitak Rememrbrance Day)
All of us remember the tragic day in December 1988, when the unprecedented element befell on Armenia. Tremors with Richter magnitude of 7 almost completely destroyed the Spitak city; tremors also caused great damage to Leninakan, Kiovakan cities and more than 15 cities, hundreds of villages, dozen thousands of people have been lost under ruins. Armenian people annually pay the tribute to their memory on December 7. Memorial services for victims are held in all churches of Armenia. In Yerevan, residents carry flowers to the Memorial of victims of earthquake.