ARMENIAN HOLIDAYS 2019
Why do Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 6th? What is Vardavar and Navasard? Traditional celebrations are some of the core aspects of any culture. Whether it is a wedding, a harvest festival, a religious holiday, or a national observance, Armenian holidays are woven tightly into Armenian cultural identity.
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. Celebrating one of our holidays can brighten up your mood for weeks, as you become absorbed in preparations for the event and the excitement of the day itself. 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, with tables laden with traditional Armenian food and the variety of desserts. During this week, people exchange gifts and congratulatory wishes, and their homes are open to welcome everyone. Visiting begins on January 01 and lasts through the Orthodox Christmas on January 06. You can be sure about finding the doors of any house open to welcome you. 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)
Christmas is celebrated by people all over the globe. 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. In fact, Christmas was probably not observed at all in the very early Church. Later, the mysteries of the birth and baptism of Jesus Christ began to be observed on January 06. 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 Armenian Church has maintained that ancient tradition to this day, whereas the Greek-speaking Christian world switched to the Latin tradition at the end of the 4th century. Part of the ritual is the “Blessing of Water”, when water is blessed with the holy chrism, symbolic of Christ’s baptism. Many folks attend church on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning on January 06, and then they sit down to enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner. Traditionally, the major dish of the Christmas are considered to be fish and rice. Wine is also served during Christmas dinner.
ARMY DAY (official non-working holiday)
Many nations of the world have an annual Armed Forces Day to commemorate the formation of their military forces. On this day, Armenians all over the world celebrate the day of the Armenian National Army formation. It was created in the newly independent Republic of Armenia in 1992.
PURIFICATION (TRNDEZ) (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 Armenian Church celebrates it on February 14, the 40 days after January 06. 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.
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 King 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 gold helmet and gold armor.
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, but mostly from the beloved ones. Folks usually celebrate it with friends in the coffee houses, restaurants or at home.
THE HOLIDAY OF MATERNITY & BEAUTY (religious working holiday)
On April 07, the Armenian Church celebrates the great holiday: the day of the Annunciation of Mother of the Gods. According to the Bible, on this day angels announced the Virgin Mary on the forthcoming birth of Jesus Christ. In secular life this religious holiday turned into a Day of Maternity and Beauty. 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!
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. Distributing blessed palm branches to the faithful on the feast of Palm Sunday is one of the spiritual customs of the Armenian Church, as well as of the other Churches belonging to the Universal Church.
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”. 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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
HOLY CROSS (KHACHVERATS) (religious holiday)
The Armenian Church celebrates this holiday on Sunday, which is devoted to the Holy Cross (Surb Khach). This holiday also serves as a memorial to all those relatives who have passed away.
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.
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. Get ready to say “Happy New Year” in Armenian when you visit Armenia!