The Holidays

 
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Ascension Day (Hambartsum)

(religious holiday)

Observed on: May 21
Ascension Day is the holiday of love and enjoyment, which is celebrated outdoors in the blossom of May, 40 days after Easter. In ancient times on this day the young ladies were allowed to walk freely in the fields, sing songs, and make acquaintances, which often became crucial in their lives. According to people’s imagination this is the night of miracle. At midnight exactly nature finds the gift of speech, the water is still for a second; the sky and the earth embrace; the stars kiss one another. Space stops its wheel and the one who witnesses these magic moments will have his or her dreams fulfilled.


Christmas (Surb Tsnund)

(official, religious holiday)

Observed on: January 6
Christmas – the Birthday of Christ is celebrated by people all over the world. The Armenians celebrate this day as a major Christian religious holiday, together with the Epiphany (baptism) and attend church services in their neighborhoods. Part of the ritual is the “Blessing of Water, when water is blessed with the holy chrism symbolic of Christ’s baptism.

The most beautiful and meaningful parts of the holiday occur at home and in church. Many families go to church on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. Then they sit down to enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner. According to tradition, the main dish is fish and rice prepared with butter. Wine is served with dinner.


Constitution Day

(official holiday)

Observed on: July 5
The Constitution of the Republic of Armenia was adopted through a national referendum on July 5, 1995. Constitution Day is an official holiday in Armenia.


Day of Remembrance of Victims of the 1988 Earthquake

(official holiday)

Observed on: December 7
A devastating earthquake in 1988 killed thousands of people and destroyed most of the Republic’s infrastructure. The earthquake was felt as far away as the Armenian capital, but it was the second and third most populous cities of Leninakan (now Gyumri) and Kirovakan (now Vanadzor) that were among the most devastated.


Day of the First Republic

(official holiday)

Observed on: May 28
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 Armenian quest for independence. Short lived, the 1918 Republic was swallowed by the USSR for seventy more years, but inspired a spirit of hope and self determination for future generations. This is an official national holiday.


Easter (Zatik)

(religious holiday)

Observed on: April 4
Easter (Zatik) is the favourite and the most anticipated holiday in the Christian world. Everybody greets each other on this day: “Christ has arisen"-“Blessed is the resurrection of Christ". During the Lenten fasting season of 40 days before Easter, Armenian families put lentils or other sprouting grains on a tray covered with a thin layer of cotton, and keep it in a light place of the house 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 cheorek (sweet 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 cried. The Mother’s tears and Son’s blood dropping on the shawl colored the eggs and bread. Then the Mother put the shawl on her head. Since that day people began coloring eggs red on Easter day and women began wearing shawls when visiting church.


Genocide Victims Memorial Day

(official holiday)

Observed on: April 24
Every year on April 24, Armenians all over the world solemnly honor the memory of over a million victims of the 1915 genocide. In Armenia thousands of people join the annual procession on foot to Tsitsernakaberd to pay their respect to those who perished in this massive attempt to exterminate the Armenian people and forcibly remove them from their ancestral lands. This is an official national holiday.


Grape Blessing Day

(religious holiday)

Observed on: August 12
This holiday is celebrated on the nearest Sunday of August 15. Catholicos of Armenian Church blesses the grape harvest.


Holiday of St. Mary

(religious holiday)

Observed on: August 16
A day devoted to the Mother of God is celebrated on a Sunday falling between the 12th and the 18th of August. The traditional ceremony of this holiday is the annual blessing of the grapes in the church, which coincides with the beginning of the harvest.


Holy Cross (Khachverats)

(religious holiday)

Observed on: September 13
The Armenian Church celebrates this holiday on the Sunday nearest September 14, which is devoted to the Holy Cross (Surb Khach). This holiday also serves as a memorial to those who have passed away.


Holy Translators Day (Targmanchats ton)

(religious holiday)

Observed on: October 13
This holiday is dedicated to the creators of Armenian alphabet Mesrop Mashtots and Sahak Partev, Translators and Interpreters of the Bible.
The Armenian alphabet was invented in order to translate the Bible into Armenian and paved the way for the first Golden Age of Armenia. Over the centuries, Armenian writers, philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists, have taken inspiration from the Holy Translators’ legacy to achieve excellence in scholarship, creativity, and world acclaim in spite of long periods of devastation, attack, conquest and subjugation.


Independence Day

(official holiday)

Observed on: September 21
Independence Day is an official holiday in Armenia. The restoration of the Republic of Armenia in 1991, after 70 years of sovietization, followed a national referendum on secession from Soviet Union.


New Year (Amanor)

(official holiday)

Observed on: January 1
New Year is celebrated a whole week starting with December 31, by baking New Year cookies and tables laden with food and different kinds of sweets. During this week, people exchange gifts and congratulatory wishes, and their homes are open to welcome everyone. Visiting begins on January 1 and lasts through Christmas-January 6.

Armenian children believe that Dzmer Papik (Santa Claus) brings gifts on New Year’s Eve. Several days or weeks before the holiday, children write letters to Dzmer Papik telling him what toys they wish.


Palm Sunday (Tsaghkazard)

(religious holiday)

Observed on: April 5
Palm Sunday (Tsaghkazard) is celebrated one week before Easter and marks Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem as the messiah. The customs observed on this holiday begin with boys and girls dressed in their best clothes. The engaged men of each village uproot a young willow tree and decorate the branches with colored pieces of cloth, fruit and candles.


Purification (Trndez)

(religious holiday)

Observed on: February 14
According to religious custom this holiday is connected with the idea of coming forward to the Lord with fire, after 40 days of his birth. The Armenian Church celebrates it on February 14th - 40 days after January 6th, from which it derives the religious name: coming forward to the Lord. The main ceremony of it is a bonfire, symbolizing the coming of spring.


Saint Sargis

(religious holiday)

Observed on: February 7
St. Sargis is a beloved religious observance and is very popular among young people. It is celebrated 63 days before Easter, on a Saturday falling sometime between January 18 and February 23. 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. Sargis 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 their homes to have a record of St. Sargis’s horse riding through the flour. They believe St. Sargis appears with lightening speed on his radiant horse, and that the traces left on the flour serve as a good omen to bring them luck. In people’s imagination St. Sargis is handsome and appears with a spear, a gold helmet and gold armor.


The Transfiguration (Vardavar (The feast of water))

(religious holiday)

Observed on: July 19
In the traditional Armenian range of holidays, the Transfiguration is the major summer holiday and is celebrated 14 weeks after Easter. In pre-Christian Armenia this holiday was associated with the pagan goddess Anahit, to whose heathen temple the young and the old went on pilgrimage. The word Vardavar has two meanings: “the flaming of the rose and “to sprinkle with water. According to legend, the goddess Astghik spread love through the Armenian land by sprinkling rosy water and presenting roses. The god Vahagn kept and protected that love, constantly fighting against evil. This feast was transformed after the adoption of Christianity. On Vardavar in modern times, everybody pours water on one another, starting in the early morning; no one is allowed to feel offended or displeased by mischief on that day.


Victory and Peace Day (World War II)

(official holiday)

Observed on: May 9
Victory Day (World War II) was a holiday throughout the USSR and is still an official holiday in Armenia. The victory of the World War II and the memorial for its dead is celebrated on different days in different countries. Armenia celebrates it on May 9.


Women’s Day

(official holiday)

Observed on: March 8
Women’s Day is popular among Armenians. Men give presents to women, and the streets are full of flowers. People usually celebrate it with friends and have a good time in cafes, restaurants or at home.


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