Holidays make the awakening of nature more beautiful with their emblem and uniqueness. And holidays are of different colors in Armenia. While visiting Armenia, it’s a must to participate in celebration of at least one holiday. How many are they and when are celebrated? Palm Sunday, Holy Resurrection or Easter, Ascension Day, day of maternity and beauty.
Palm Sunday is a religious and folk holiday, which heralds the beginning of spring outdoor fêtes. Palm Sunday is celebrated on the last Sunday of Lent, a week before Easter. It is dedicated to the memory of Jesus Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. But the roots of the holiday comes from pagan times, that symbolized the awakening of the spring, was connected with the cult of spring weather and a tree by pagan gods. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem also took place in the spring. It was accepted with great enthusiasm, people spread their clothes with branches of olive and palm on the road. It is mentioned in the 4 Gospels. As such matches happened, later due to circumstances Palm was merged with the Christian holiday and was fixed in calendar with the name Palm Sunday.
The day before Palm Sunday, altar opens its curtains and the ceremony is called “Drnbatseq” (opening the doors). Next day after divine service Holy Liturgy is served. Before, there was a custom to put a tree in churches on Palm Sunday and decorate with candles and fruits. Now the Church sanctifies twigs of olive and willow, divides among people, and the church is decorated with the same twigs of trees. Willow twigs that are fruitless, symbolize the pagans that bear fruits only after their devotion to Christ. And olive tree was considered the symbol of wisdom, peace, victory and glory in ancient times. Twigs are stored until the next Palm Sunday and wealth, abundance and fertility charms power were ascribed to them.
Holy Resurrection or Easter
Palm Sunday is followed by Holy Week which ends with one of the 5 major church feasts of the Armenian Apostolic Church: Holy Resurrection or Easter. Easter is a moveable feast, i.e. every year the celebration day is being changed. Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates it in the period from March 22 to April 26. Easter is the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which became the basis of Christian faith. Christ is the eternal victim, through which man receives forgiveness of his sins, then the resurrection and the life. The main events related to the Easter begin on Saturday of Holy Week and end on Monday. Christ’s Resurrection liturgy is served on Saturday night which ends the seven-week lasted Lent before Easter period. At the end of Liturgy believers greet each other with the following expression: “Christ Jesus is risen!”. And the response is “He is risen indeed!”
On Sunday also a Divine service takes place which is followed by Divine Liturgy. Apart from the religious ceremonies, the fest continuous in families. Not long ago, community events, songs, dances and games were popular, and preparations of the celebration began earlier. Easter night the offering was cooked, which was accompanied by songs and games. Nowadays the tradition of celebrating the holiday in a family atmosphere is observed. All Christian families serve pilaf, greens, red eggs and red wine. Red painted eggs become the “heroes” of Ester games. Red symbolizes the Blood of Jesus that was shed for the salvation of mankind.
From April 30 until June 3, exactly forty days after Easter, on the corresponding Thursday the Ascension Day is celebrated. 40 days after the resurrection, Christ stays on the earth, teaches his pupils, and on the 40th day he blesses and gives commandment to his apostles and ascends to Heaven. However, this last spring festival played an important role even during pre-Christian Armenians’ mode of life which conformed to the Christian holiday. Ascension day is also called “Vichak” (“Lot” in translation) or “Jan Gyulum” by locals. The holiday was celebrated differently in different regions of Armenia.
A day before Ascension (on Wednesday) girls picked flowers of seven colors and made bouquets. Then each of them put an object in a jug filled with water of 7 sources. On Ascension Day they sit down around the flowers and the jar in a circle and the lottery began. Each of them sang a quatrain of folk songs. After each quatrain a little girl pull an object out of the jar. The fate of the object owner was determined by the content of the song. Until now, this beautiful tradition is observed in some regions of Armenia.
Day of maternity and beauty
The day of maternity and beauty is not less beloved and pretty. It is celebrated on 7 April. According to the Gospels, on that day archangel Gabriel heralded Mariam about the birth of God’s son. His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II has declared this day as a blessing of mothers and mothers-to-day. A Holy Liturgy is served in all active churches. According to the emblem, pregnant women are as close to the God as the Holy Virgin being similar to her by giving birth to new life. Armenian mothers receive congratulations and small gifts as a sign of gratitude.
Although the first 3 holidays do not have fixed dates, one can know when The Armenian Apostolic church celebrates this festives before organizing your tours to Armenia which is an opportunity to combine the useful and pleasurable. You can take tours in Armenia, be in regions, participate in celebrations in one of medieval churches, take part in folk fetes to experience the cultural atmosphere.