Holidays and Memorial Days in Armenia
Armenia is a country of unique traditions and customs, national identity of which is especially emphasized during national, religious and public holidays, peculiar only to it, so it is a great occasion to visit Armenia.
It is about the most important events in history and national remembrance days. They also include some traditional, national, religious and professional holidays, which were appointed by Armenian Apostolic Church and the Government.
Public Holidays of the Republic of Armenia
New Year and Christmas are celebrated from the 31st of December to the 6th of January; non-working days
Army Day is on the 28th of January. In 1992 Department of Defense of the RA was established this day; non-working day
St. Vardanants Day – day of mercy and national homage. It is celebrated 8 weeks before the Holy Easter; on Friday.
International Women’s Day is on the 8th of March; an international holiday, which is celebrated from 1911 by Clara Zetkin’s suggestion; she was a prominent figure in the German and international working class movement; non-working day.
Maternity and Beauty Day is on the 7th of April; appointed on the occasion of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin. It symbolizes the Annunciation to the Mother of God Mary about her holy pregnancy.
Day of the International Solidarity of Workers is on the 1st of May. It is an international holiday, which is celebrated from 1890 as the day of international solidarity of workers; non-working day.
Land Defender’s Day is on the 8th of May; appointed in 2002 on the occasion of the liberation of Shushi (8-9th of May, 1992)
Victory and Peace Day is on the 9th of May; the day of the victory of USSR over Nazi Germany. In Armenia it symbolizes the contribution of Armenian nation in this victory.
Republic Day is on the 28th of May. In 1918 this day the Armenian independence was followed by proclamation of the first Republic of Armenia; non-working day.
Children’ rights protection day. 1st of June is an international holiday, which has been celebrated since 1950. The purpose of the holiday is to protect children from threat of war, preserve their health and provide them with appropriate education and growth.
Constitution Day is on the 5th of July. In 1995 by national referendum Constitution of RA was adopted; non-working day.
Knowledge Day is on the 1st of September; start of academic year is celebrated.
Independence Day is on the 21st of September. In 1991 this day independence of the Republic of Armenia was proclaimed by national referendum; non-working day.
Teacher’s Day is on the 5th of October; non-working day.
Holy Translator’s Day (Targmanchats) is celebrated on the second Saturday of October. The holiday symbolizes invention of Armenian alphabet, first translation of the Gospel into Armenian and start of Armenian education.
Armenian Genocide victim’s Memorial Day is on the 24th of April. It is day of remembrance of victim of Armenian Genocide, accomplished by the Ottoman Empire and Kemal’s government. In 1915 this day 800 representatives of Armenian intelligentsia were arrested in Constantinople. Most of them were wildly killed, the others died on the way to exile; non-working day.
Earthquake Victim’s Memorial Day is on the 7th of December. It is day of remembrance of the 25,000 victims of the earthquake in Spitak in 1988.
Armenians celebrate also Mother Tongue Day, Satire and Humor Day, Press Day, Theatre Day, Museums Day, Radio Day, Remembrance Day of the victims of the organized in Azerbaijan massacre in 1988 and Protection of displaced people’s rights and other prominent dates.
Armenian National and Ecclesiastical Holidays
National and religious holidays include traditional religious – ecclesiastic and national holidays, which appeared mostly in pre-Christian period and were adapted to the Christian calendar, saving a number of customs and rituals, which were associated to the ancient ceremonies and beliefs.
Ecclesiastic holidays are dedicated to Jesus Christ, Blessed Virgin, The Holy Cross, saints, prominent figures and events.
New Year is chronologically the 1st national holiday. Before adaption of Christianity Navasard (Armenian New Year) was considered to be start of year - moveable holiday, which was celebrated from the beginning of August up to October – November.
In XIX century according to Simon A from Yerevan (Yerevantsi) Navasard was replaced by New Year, which became start of year and was fixed on 1st of January as fixed holiday.
The fixed feasts of Nativity of Jesus Christ and Epiphany, Blessing of Water and Baptism of Jesus Christ are celebrated on the 6th of January and symbolize Christ’s birth and baptism. The last one is the first from the main ecclesiastic feasts. On the 6th of January after Christmas Liturgy, according to the ancient ritual (in ancient times people throw something into water and kept the most important wishes in mind, because water was considered to purify soil as well as people) and proclaiming about Baptism of Jesus Christ in the river Jordan, Armenian Church hold ceremony of Blessing of Waters, during which The Holy Cross is descended into water.
St. Sarkis’ Day – the feast, during which the young and lovers expect their mysterious dreams come true and predict their destinies. It is celebrated 65 days before the Holy Easter: usually between 18th of January and 23d of February: in Saturday.
Trndez (Derendez) is a fixed holiday, which is celebrated on the 14th of February (celebration starts from 13th evening). When Jesus Christ was only forty days, his parents brought him to the temple, and they were met by the elder Simon. This is the origin of the name of feast “Tearndaraj”, which means “To meet the Lord”.
This feast is believed to be the herald of spring, rich harvest and the good, prosperity of newlyweds, the symbol of fertility. The main ritual of the feast is burning of the fire; fire prevents the evil. The young and newlyweds jump over the fire so that their wished came true, the year was fertile and women became mothers. By Catholicos of All Armenians’ blessing all the churches serve the ceremony of blessing of the young.
Barekendan – two-week festivals, which are held before Lent. This range includes national dances, theatrical performances, marriages and banquets. This big feast symbolizes beginning of spring. The Thursday of the second week and the days of Bun Barekendan – 1st days of the feast, especially distinguished. Thursday is the special day of remembrance of died. In the Armenian ecclesiastic calendar this day is marked as St. Vardanants Day.
Lent follows the last day of Bun Barekendan. It is a period of testing yourself, purifying and abstaining, during which marriages, engagements and happy events aren’t held. During this period there is a strict nutrient status, which includes only food of plant origin.
Tsakhkazard (Palm Sunday) is celebrated on the 6th week of Lent and symbolizes blossom of nature. The main ritual of the day is blessing of the first osier and young greens. The meaning of the feast is Crist’s triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, when people covered his way with green palm and olive branches. Armenian Church marked this day as children blessing day.
7th week of Lent is Holy Week, which is considered to be last week of Epiphany. Every day has its meaning. On Holy Saturday Candlelight Devine Liturgy (Chragaluyts) is held, during which Resurrection of Jesus Christ is prophesied.
Easter (“Zatik” in Armenian) is the second main feast of Armenian Church; a moveable holiday. It is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon; between the 21st of March and the 26th of April; with movability of 35 days. Dates of all Armenian feasts are determined by the date of Easter.
Armenian “Zatik” means to part, to get rid of sufferings. Initially, it was a pagan feast. With the adoption of Christianity it was combined with Resurrection of Christ, which has the meaning of indestructible life. Egg, which is source of life of many living beings, became the symbol of the feast. Red color of eggs means Crist’s blood, shed for salvation of Universe. The second day of Easter, as of all Armenian holidays is day of remembrance of died “merelots”.
Ascension of Jesus Christ is celebrated on the occasion of resurrection of Christ and getting eternal life by his Father’s side on the 40th day of Resurrection of Christ. This is day is called Divination Day or Katnapur (milky soup); the day, when the young try to predict their destinies.
Vardavar is the third of the main feasts of Armenian Church. It is celebrated in 14 weeks after Easter; in the end of July. According to Christian tradition, Vardavar coincides with Transfiguration of Jesus Christ. The national feast has a more ancient origin and is related to water worship. People decorate their cloths with roses and other flowers, throw water over each other, let white pigeons into the sky, calling rain onto dry soil. Apple, the ritual fruit of the day, is blessed in church and permitted to use from then on.
Assumption of Virgin Mary is day of remembrance about Mary’s leaving to the Heaven. It is the 4th main feast of Armenian Church, which is celebrated on the nearest Sunday from the 15th of August. This day people bring the first grape to church for blessing (national name of the feast is “Khakhokhorhneq”, which means “Blessing of Grape” in Armenian). This feast is considered also to be the ceremony of bestowing to Blessed Virgin. Grape worship is an ancient custom; in pre-Christian period grape was blessed by the king or a priest. In Christian period this feast was related to the story of returning of the Holy Cross from captivity, getting a new name.
Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Khachverats, Sbkhech, Ulots) is the last 5th ecclesiastic feast, which is celebrated on the nearest Sunday from the 14th of September. This day people attend graves of died ones. Traditionally roast goat meat is the main dish of the day.
All the national holidays were held with songs, dances and reading. Those pieces were carefully worked on and represented by poets, writers, composers, artists and others. One of the best examples of the result of their hard work is description of nature in poem “Anush”.