If you are in Armenia in February and you see a burning fire in a churchyard or house yard, and you see people gathered around it, do not call fire emergency. It is not an emergency, it is simply Tyarnendaraj in Armenia.
The Meaning of Tyarnendaraj
Tyarnendaraj is one of the religious holidays of the Armenian Apostolic Church celebrated on February 13th. It symbolizes devotion of 40-day old Jesus Christ to the Church. On February 13th, the evening service concludes with a blessing of fields and orchards announcing the end of winter and beginning of spring. With a blessed spark from church lanterns, they burn big fires in churchyards, symbolizing the light of God. And on these big fires originated from the lanterns and blessed with God’s light, the newlywed jump over, believing that they get the blessing too. This is why Tyarnendaraj is called newlyweds’ holiday.
Like for all holidays, for this one too, Armenian families start getting prepared in advance. The housewives are particularly busy. Several days before the event they cook “khashil” (a dish prepared from stir-fried flour, butter, and yogurt), “harissa” (grain and chicken dish), “halva”, “aghandz” (pan-fried grain, chickpeas, and other legumes), and various dishes from dried fruits and vegetables. Aside from the kitchen things, housewives also prepare gifts for the newlyweds.
When the holiday table is ready the head of the household lights the fire from the spark brought from church, and all the family members, relatives and neighbors gather around it. Going in rounds, singing folk songs and dancing folk dances the newlywed couple jumps over the fire. By the way, it is particularly common on Tyarnendaraj to perform a dance called “gyovnd”, a dance which is performed with a closed circle of dancers. The name of “gyovnd” comes from the Armenian word “gund” (ball) which symbolizes the community, unified and closed against all evil forces.
When the newlywed or engaged couples jump over the fire, others come close to the fire too. According to the tradition all the present jump over it too, and then get a treat at the house where the ceremony was organized. Tyarnendaraj holiday concludes with a lavish feast around a big table with blessings and good wishes from the family to the newlyweds.