ARMENIAN HOLIDAYS 2021
Traditional Armenian celebrations are an excellent opportunity for intercultural exchange and understanding, and getting deep into the local culture is a fantastic way to learn about the country. So next time you see one of our Armenian traditional holidays approaching on the calendar, call us and start planning. Invite your friends, involve the kids, and create your own lasting memories!
NEW YEAR (AMANOR) (official non-working holidays from Dec 31 to Jan 07)
New Year is celebrated a whole week beginning with December 31 and lasts through the Orthodox Christmas on January 06. During this week, people exchange gifts and congratulatory wishes, and their homes are open to welcome everyone. In addition, the Armenians have their own Armenian Santa Claus, Dzmer Papik (literally “Winter Grandfather”), who is believed by children to bring gifts on New Year’s Eve.
CHRISTMAS (SURB TSNUND) (religious, non-working holiday)
The Armenians are celebrating this day as a major Christian religious holiday, together with the Epiphany. Even at the time of the Holy Apostles, the traditions in the Christian churches in the different parts of the world were not uniform. By the end of the 3rd century, Christmas in Rome was celebrated on December 25, which coincided with a major Pagan feast. The Eastern churches, meanwhile, continued to observe Christmas on January 06.
The holiday begins on the evening of January 5th and continues past midnight on January 5th. On the morning of January 6, the Holy Liturgy is also served in Armenian churches, after which the rite of “Blessing of Water” is performed in memory of the Baptism of Jesus. According to tradition, believers bring some of this water to their homes as a healing remedy for the sick, since the water consecrated on this day is called Epiphany and has special beneficial properties.
Christmas in Armenia is a family holiday that gathers relatives and friends around a richly set festive table. Traditionally, fish is served, which has been a symbol of Christianity since ancient times. It is also customary to treat with sweet rice pilaf: rice personifies humanity, and raisins – are the chosen ones, whom the Lord chose to continue his work.
ARMY DAY (official non-working holiday)
Every year on January 28, Armenia celebrates the professional holiday of all servicemen of the Armenian Armed Forces – Army Day. In 1991, by the decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia under the Council of Ministers, the State Defense Committee was established, and on January 28, 1992, the historic decision “On the Defense of the Republic of Armenia” was made, thereby announcing the fact of the creation of the Armenian National Army.
ST. SARKIS DAY (religious holiday)
In the whole world, the patron of all lovers is the St. Valentine, whose celebration is observed on February 14. But Armenia has its own national patron of all loving hearts. It’s the St. Sarkis. He served as the commander at the court of Byzantine Emperor Constantine, and was one of the first Armenians who adopted the Christianity. It is celebrated 63 days before Easter, on a Saturday.
On the night of the holiday young people eat salty pies and don’t drink water to encourage dreaming at night. They believe, that St. Sarkis decides their fate, that the person who gives them water to drink in their dreams will become their future spouse.
People also put a plate with flour outside the door to have a record of St. Sarkis’s horse riding through the flour. They believe, the St. Sarkis appears with lightning speed on his radiant horse, and that the traces left in the flour serve as a good omen to bring them luck. In people’s imagination St. Sarkis is very handsome and appears with a spear, a golden helmet and golden armor.
On the day of the holiday in the downtown of the capital of Armenia, in the Surb Sarkis Church, it is especially crowded. Here, as in all Armenian churches, a festive liturgy is held. Many young people come in pairs or alone for blessings.
TRNDEZ (PURIFICATION (religious holiday)
The celebration of Trndez has pagan origins and is connected with the Sun and Fire worship in the ancient Armenia of the pre-Christian period. Later, the Armenian Apostolic Church preserved this tradition as it was very popular among people. According to religious custom, this holiday is associated with the idea of coming forward to the Lord with fire, after 40 days of the Nativity.
The main rite of this holiday is to jump over the bonfire. Mostly, it is done by either newlyweds or the bride and groom. To the sound of the duduk, couples pass around bonfire 7 times, and then jump over it. It’s symbolic of the purification of the sins.
The main thing is to not unclasp the hands, that the union will be strong. During the ritual, elders of the clan pour on the heads of newlywed wheat grains, so that the abundance follows throughout their life. Childless women, who desire to beget children, also can jump over the bonfire. The holiday is concluded with dancing round the bonfire and feasting later on that day.
INTERNATIONAL WOMAN’S DAY (official non-working holiday)
The International Women’s Day is very popular not only among Armenians, but also almost in all the post-Soviet countries. All the beloved women, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, wives, get presents and flowers both from their family members, friends and colleagues. Folks usually celebrate it with friends in the coffee houses, restaurants or at home.
PALM SUNDAY (TSAKHKAZARD) (religious holiday)
Palm Sunday is celebrated one week before the Easter, which marks Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem as the Messiah. On Palm Sunday, Armenian churches are decorated with branches from willow trees, olive and palm trees.
Following a solemn morning service, the blessed branches are distributed to the faithful. The barren branches represent the pagans; they began to bear fruit only after they were offered to Christ. The softness of the branches symbolizes the humility of the followers of Christ.
EASTER (ZATIK) (religious holiday)
Easter is the favorite and the most anticipated holiday in the Christian world. Everybody greets each other on this day: “Christ has risen, and blessed is the resurrection of Christ”. Armenia was the first state to adopt Christianity, and this happened in 301. And Easter has become one of the most beautiful and revered holidays in Armenia. In thIS holiday of Easter Christians see liberation, deliverance from evil, suffering and from death.
During the Lenten fasting season of 40 days before Easter, the Armenian families put lentils or other sprouting grains on a tray covered with a thin layer of cotton, and keep until Easter, when sprouts appear. These green sprouts, symbolizing Spring and awakening of Nature, are the “grass” on which people place colored eggs to decorate the Easter table.
To the present day, Armenians have preserved the beautiful Biblical lore, which refers to red eggs and fresh bread: “When Christ was crucified, his Mother took some eggs and bread wrapped in the shawl. When the Mother saw her Son crucified and his arms bleeding, she knelt down and wept. The Mother’s tears and Son’s blood dropping on the shawl colored the eggs. Then the Mother put the shawl on her head. “
Since that day, people have begun to color eggs, red on Easter day, and women began wearing shawls when visiting churches. Nowadays, they are colored in other colors as well. Then comes the traditional game: hitting the tips of hard boiled eggs of other players. At the end of the game, the winner gets the eggs of the loser, and the final winner takes all the eggs!
THE HOLIDAY OF MATERNITY & BEAUTY (religious holiday)
On April 7, the Armenian Church celebrates the day of the Annunciation of Mother of the God. On this day, the Archangel Gabriel brought the good news to the Virgin Mary that she was to become the Mother of God. In secular life this religious holiday turned into a Day of Maternity and Beauty.
It is believed that during pregnancy a woman approaches God and prepares for the sacrament of the birth of a new life. Pregnancy suits every woman, therefore beauty and motherhood are closely related. If you are a girl or a woman, be ready that walking in the streets on that day, you are likely to get flowers even from strangers!
1915 GENOCIDE VICTIMS REMEMBRANCE DAY (official non-working Memorial Day)
Every year on April 24, Armenians all over the world, solemnly honor the memory of over a 1.5 million victims of the 1915 Genocide. In Armenia, thousands of people join the annual procession on foot to Tsitsernakaberd Hill (The Armenian Genocide Memorial) to pay their respect to those, who perished in this massive attempt to exterminate the Armenian people in Western Armenia, and forcibly remove them from their ancestral lands and historical motherland by the Ottoman Turks. This is the day of remembering the historical past and demanding justice for the victims of those atrocities.
LABOR DAY (MAY DAY) (official non-working holiday)
Labor Day, also known as May Day, is a celebration of the international labor movement. At one time, this holiday was widely celebrated in the USSR. Columns of demonstrators with portraits of communist party leaders, balloons, flowers, and red banners marched along the main square on a parade. Back in those days, the May Day was a long-awaited holiday either for adults or for children. Thus, it easily fell into the new history of Armenia and it’s one of the favorite national holidays.
VICTORY AND PEACE DAY (official non-working holiday)
Victory Day (World War II) was a holiday throughout the USSR, and today it is an official holiday in Armenia. The victory in the World War II and the memorial to its fallen has been celebrated on different days in various countries. Armenia celebrates it on May 09. Also on May 09, Armenians celebrate the day of victory in a great battle for the city of Shushi in Nagorno-Karabakh, which did reverse the course of war in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
In Yerevan, people come to Yerablur Pantheon and Mother Armenia Monument to lay flowers and wreaths, and observe the minute of silence in memory of the fallen. The military troops of Armenia and the World War II veterans go marching in a parade through the Republic Square in Yerevan.
ASCENSION DAY (HAMBARTSUM) (religious holiday)
The Armenian Church celebrates the Ascension Day of Jesus Christ on Thursday. The churches will hold various events on this occasion. It is celebrated on the 40th day of Easter within 35 movable days starting from April 30 till June 01 always on Thursday. Following His Resurrection and defeat of death, Christ remained on Earth for forty days, and continued to appear to His disciples. On the fortieth day, Christ is seen by His disciples for the last time. He blesses them and leaves them with instructions, after which He ascends into Heaven.
The Armenian people have long celebrated this holiday with a special ceremony. The girls dressed in colorful clothes on the day of the Ascension of the Lord, according to the rite, collect flowers and weave wreaths, one of which is called “Tsakhkamer” and has the shape of a cross.
And on the night before Ascension, the girls keep jugs full of water from seven springs, sand from mountain rivers, as well as dew and flowers all night under the open sky. The girls put their things (rings, buttons) into these jugs so that each one would receive the blessing of heaven.
FIRST REPUBLIC DAY (official non-working holiday)
On this day, in 1918, the Armenian people restored what was left of historic Armenia to statehood, after half a millennium of lost sovereignty. The celebration of this day marks the beginning of the modern Armenia’s quest for independence. Short lived, the 1918 Republic was annexed by the Soviets for 70 more years, but inspired a spirit of hope and self determination for future generations.
CONSTITUTION DAY (official non-working holiday)
The Constitution of the third Republic, which is the current Republic of Armenia, was adopted through holding a national referendum on this day in 1995. As a result, this day became one of the Armenian holidays.
NAVASARD (ARMENIAN PAGAN NEW YEAR) (religious holiday)
August 11 is the first day of the New Year according to the ancient Armenian calendar. In the old days, this holiday in Armenia was celebrated with great excitement and a lavish way. Navasard was dedicated to seven major Armenian pagan gods: Aramazd (the Supreme Armenian God, the Father of all Gods and Goddesses), Anahit (the Supreme Goddess), Astghik (the Goddess of Love, Beauty and Water), Nane (the Goddess of War), Vahagn (the God of Thunder and Lightning), Mihr (the God of Sun and Heaven Light) and Tir (the God of Wisdom, Science and Studies).
ASSUMPTION OF THE ST. MARY AND THE GRAPE BLESSING DAY (religious holiday)
Among the most beloved ceremonies of the Armenian traditional feasts, is the ceremony of Grape Blessing, which is held on Sunday, usually following, or proceeding the August 15. The occasion, on which Armenians celebrate the blessing of grapes is a major feast day, called “Assumption of the St. Mary”.
The “Assumption of the St. Mary” is one of the most important holidays of the Armenian Church, which has been celebrated in Armenia since the 5th century. This is a bright holiday – speaking of the departure of the Mother of God from life, the word “assumption” is used, which confirms the singularity, mystery and greatness of the event.
The tradition of blessing grapes, the first fruits of the harvest, can be traced back to the Old Testament, when farming was a common vocation. Of the vast assortment of produce, grapes had a special place and were considered the “first fruits” because they were the first produce of the harvest.
With the birth of Jesus, these dedications took on a new meaning. Jesus Christ was the first born, or the first fruit of Mary and as such, was offered to God in the tabernacle (Luke 2:25-30). The Catholicos of all Armenians blesses the grape harvest on that day, and it was distributed among the faithful.
In pre-Christian Armenia, the ritual of blessing grapes was performed by a king himself or high priest. Until that day, it was forbidden to pick grapes so that the bunch reached the required sweetness, otherwise vinegar could be obtained instead of wine. Our forefathers loved this holiday very much and were looking forward to it. After all, the Mother Nature rewarded them for their conscientious work!
HOLY CROSS (KHACHVERATS) (religious holiday)
“Khachverats” is celebrated in memory of the return and glorification of the Life-giving Cross of the Lord. The Armenian Church celebrates it on Sunday, which falls between September 11 and 17. Tradition says that the Holy Cross, found by Queen Helena (mother of Emperor Constantine the Great), was erected by Patriarch Macarius of Jerusalem in 326 AD for the faithful, so that they could see and worship it. Monday after the holiday is the Day of Commemoration of the Dead, which is declared an official non-working day in Armenia.
INDEPENDENCE DAY (official non-working holiday)
September 21 is a day of restoration of the Republic of Armenia, after 70 years of Sovietization, followed by national referendum on secession from the Soviet Union in 1991. According to the results announced, the third and independent Republic of Armenia was created and since then, September 21st has been a public holiday to celebrate the event of national significance.
The center of the holiday becomes the Republic Square and the streets adjacent to it – the festive parades, concerts and performances of various artists take place. In different parts of the city in honor of the holiday, exhibitions of military equipment, historical expositions dedicated to Armenia, and flower festivals open. The day usually ends with an aviation show.
HOLY TRANSLATORS DAY (TARGMANCHATS TON) (religious holiday)
This holiday is dedicated to Mesrop Mashtots and his disciples, who translated the Holy Scriptures into Armenian (the word “targmanich” means a translator in Armenian). The holiday is also dedicated to other outstanding figures in Armenian culture, who left a remarkable legacy in education, enlightenment and the sciences.
EARTHQUAKE MEMORIAL DAY (working Memorial Day)
A devastating earthquake in 1988 killed thousands of people and destroyed most of the Republic’s infrastructure. The tremble was felt as far away as the Armenian capital, Yerevan. But it was the second and third most populous cities of Leninakan (now Gyumri) and Kirovakan (now Vanadzor), that were among the most devastated. December 7th is the day of remembrance of victims for all the Armenians in the world.
NEW YEARS EVE (official non-working holiday)
Armenian New Year is the most anticipated, bright and magical event for Armenian families, local Armenians in Armenia and of course, those around the world. The capital of Armenia, Yerevan is decorated with all sorts of festive lights and garlands, and it is especially pleasant to see how the decorated trees create the atmosphere of some magic.
The main New Year Tree of the Republic Square is sat 10 days before the New Year. If you feel like you are interested in the way Armenians spend their New Year, then don’t hesitate and come to Armenia for making more vivid, bright impressions and memories of the New Year holiday!