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Tiarn’ndaraj – How the Feast was Celebrated by our Ancestors.


February 14 is the day the Armenian Church celebrates the Feast of the Lord’s Presentation to the Temple. Tiarn’ndaraj, or Candlemas as it is known in the West, symbolizes the presentation of the 40 day-old Christ Child to the Temple in Jerusalem.


In the past, young newlywed women used to run in the streets, clapping wooden sticks together to announce the start of the feast of Tiarn’ndaraj. They also prepared what was called “Kenats Tsar,” or “Life Trees,” in addition to special baskets of candies and fruits that these women would give to their in-laws. In return, their mother-in-laws would prepare baskets as well, which were filled with ornaments and presents like raisins, candies, fruits and sugar. And nearly every family prepared “aghandz,” a dessert made of roasted wheat and sesame seeds.



On the eve of this year’s feast I was fortunate to be invited as a guest to the home of artist Lusik Aguletsi, who always prepares for the feasts in a special way. On the eve of the Daghavar holidays, which are the five great holidays of the Armenian Church, she prepares the Life Tree, a symbol of fertility. First, she sprinkles the “pokhindz,” or wheat, on the tray and she puts a red apple in the centre, which symbolizes life and the relation between the feast’s two male and female heroes. Next, tree branches are stuck in the apple and decorated with blossomed sprays of wheat, which are tied with red and green ribbons symbolizing the young couple.


Traditionally, on the eve of Tiarn’ndaraj the Andastan Service was also held. During the service, a traditional fire was lit, which symbolized the light and wisdom of Christ. Since ancient times, the most popular component of the holiday was connected with the bonfire. Couples would jump over the fires for good luck. Then people would spread its holy ashes in the four corners of their houses with the hope of having a successful year. Women put the ashes in their drinking jugs to bless them. Pregnant women were served cups of water filled with ashes, in hope of a successful birth. Women unable to bear children burned their undershirt in the fire, hoping for fertility. The ashes of the holy fire were also used as medicine. People used it as a salve for their injuries or pain. Many also put the ashes on their eyelids in order to improve their eyesight.


“I always want to celebrate this feast in a beautiful way. Sadly, many traditions that come with celebrating the national holidays disappear year by year,” Lusik said. “In the past, our people always sang beautiful songs around the bonfire on the feast of Tiarn’ndaraj. They used to dance very beautiful group dances around the fire and they would play many traditional games.”


Now, the tradition of couples jumping over the bonfire is really the only one still practiced. But in recent years, His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, has revived the Divine Liturgy of Tiarn’ndaraj in all Armenian Churches. Newly married couples still come to be blessed during the ceremony.


Naira Hambardzumyan is one of this year’s Margaret Ajemian Ahnert Journalism Scholars.

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