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Armenian Feasts & Traditions

By Onnik Krikorian

iaruntarach (Terendez) - the most common name for this festival – has its origin in Jewish law according to some sources. Forty days after his birth, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple where an old man named Simon waited in expectation for the arrival of the Lord. From this, Diaruntarach (in front of the Lord) is derived.

However, the celebration also dates back to pagan times in Armenia, when the belief that fire had cleansing and purifying powers was widely held. Although celebrated on the 14th February outside of the republic, Terendez is observed on the 13th in Armenia. During the celebration, the fire of Terndez symbolizes the coming of spring, bringing with it a mild climate, a rich harvest and the blessing of newly married couples.

In some celebrations, Terendez is permitted only on holy ground in the churches, but elsewhere families would light fires in their own yards. These families are generally those with a recently engaged daughter or whose children had recently married. In such cases, the couples themselves would collect the firewood, while in the churches; Terendez followed a ceremony in which priests would bless the firewood. People then gather around the fire, believing that the direction in which the smoke blows indicates the location of the most fertile land available for the planting of crops.

Couples then jump through the fire, followed by any children in attendance. Those suffering from illnesses or infertility would thenjoin pregnant mothers and women who had just given birth, and jumpthrough the flames. Those considered “unclean” in the symbolic forty days are protected from evil, with some burning parts of their clothing to protect themselves from the bites of scorpions and snakes.

After the fire is extinguished, dancing begins, and the remains of thefire is taken by people to burn in their own homes. The ash of the fire is also considered of great importance, and prepared as a drink for pregnant women or those suffering from illness. Some also spread the remains of the fire across fields and cattle sheds, or place it in tonirs used for making lavash (Thin bread).

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Courtesy of Onnik Krikorian
Photojournalist - Armenia

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Updated 1 March, 2000 ..
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