Vardavar in Armenia
If you are a foreigner and you are planning to visit Armenia in summer then be ready for the situation when you walk along the street and a group of children or teenagers run to you and pour pails of water over you. This is the festival of Vardavar.
Yes, it may sound weird if you don’t know the meaning of this tradition.
So, where does it come from? Why do Armenians call it Vardavar and how they celebrate? All the answers are below.
Vardavar’s history dates back to the pagan times. Armenians believed in many gods before adopting Christianity. Astghik was the goddess of water, beauty, love, and fertility. The celebrations of the religious observance of Astghik people named “Vartavar”. In Armenian vart (vard) means “rose” and var means “rise”. Astghik was pouring roses over the people spreading the love.
Though Armenians adopted Christianity they kept the tradition associating it with Jesus Christ. They celebrate it now as a holiday devoted to the event of Jesus Christ’s transfiguration when he appeared to his disciples on the Mount Tabor.
Some specialists relate the Vardavar to the Flood and Noah’s descent from the Ark. According to the tradition, when Noah finds his refuge on Mount Ararat during the Flood, he orders his sons to pour water over each other for the memory of the Flood.
In ancient times people were gathering the wheat-ears in the fields and took them to the church for a blessing to keep the fields away from damages.
The most important traditions of Vardavar was the ceremony of making doves fly. They were flying in the sky and admiring people.
After Adopting Christianity
As you have already known another remarkable tradition was pouring water over each other which is preserved till our times.
So, after adopting Christianity Armenians celebrate Vardavar 14 weeks after Easter. On the day people decorate their houses with branches or bright roses. They present each other with flowers and garlands. People are in the habit of celebrating this holiday in the countryside near the rivers, lakes or waterfalls, or just nearer park. They play different games.
When the day comes (even few days before the celebration) all the people, especially children, and teenagers come out of their houses and start pouring cold water over each other or people at outside.
Wherever you go in Armenia you won’t be able to avoid of being wet. It’s believed that water of Vardavar is sanctified. So most of the people want to get watered. But some others can even get angry at children and teenagers. However, no one can escape of water because that is the “symbol” of Vardavar.
Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates as Transfiguration of Jesus Christ. By the way, only Armenian Church calls the celebration the Feast of Transfiguration. And the real story is, that before all of his torturings Jesus showed to disciples his honor, so that, when he was crossed, they wouldn’t weaken.
The Fest of Transfiguration our ancestors called Vardavar. Christians relate the celebration to Hovhannes Mkrtich who christened Jesus Christ with water.
How do Armenians Celebrate It Nowadays?
As you already know Armenians love this festival and they celebrate in the best way. One day before Vardavar you should be careful so that people don’t water you suddenly. Children hide and when buses come they pour water and run away. But this is not all, people pour water even from balconies. When you listen about this it’s quite funny, but if you are the person on the bus or in street, moreover you are going to an important meeting you’ll get angry. Anyways if you find yourself in such situation just put off your anger and remember the long history of Vardavar.
But instead of avoiding of water I advise you to celebrate it in a great way. Here are some places you can go and enjoy your Vardavar.
Garni pagan temple is the original place of celebrating Vardavar as the festival comes from pagan times. People come from all over the world and, of course, from Armenia to take part in this festival. During celebration their regional exhibitions near the entrance of the temple.
Playin, dancing, performing national songs and watering each other: this is how passes the Vardavar in Garni.
This year watering machines were pouring water on the streets and so welcoming the festival.
The Swan Lake
Every year on Vardavar people, young and old, gather in the Swan Lake because the biggest festival holds on here. There is music and good environment, no ticket or registration you need for participation.
The next best place of Vardavar festival is Tumo Park. It’s located on Halabyan street. Here mostly children come. Like Swan Lake in Tumo Park, there is DJ and many games teenagers and children play. It’s interesting that every year organizers change the program because they want to do their best to make Vardavar festival memorable.