Imagine going out for a walk, or to buy something, and suddenly someone pours water on you. How does that sound? Frustrating? Crazy? Or maybe cooling and fun if it is over 40 degrees in Celsius.
While you were having your regular Sunday, on the 11th of July, there was an interesting festival in Armenia. It’s called Vardavar. Every year, in every city and village of Armenia, people celebrate Vardavar. It is the favorite festival of all children and adults. If you are in Armenia on the day of Vardavar and you go out, don’t expect to come home dry. From early in the morning, people would drench each other with water. People pour water over their friends, relatives, neighbors, and even strangers. It doesn’t matter if you have an official meeting or carry something important in your bag. Water is everywhere. Go out, and you will get wet for sure.
Vardavar is one of the most important festivals in Armenia. It’s an Apostolic Christian festival that celebrates the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ. Armenians celebrate it on the fourteenth Sunday after Easter. It is one of the five major feasts in the Apostolic Christian calendar. According to our religion, Vardavar symbolizes the purification of the human soul as water washes away their sins and mistakes.
However, originally Vardavar comes from Pagan times. In pagan times people would drench each other with water to show respect to Astghik, the goddess of water, love, beauty, and fertility. During the celebrations, people would sprinkle one another with rose water to replicate Astghik’s bathing in roses. People also would gift red roses to Astghik as a symbol of love. According to the legend, Astghik’s lover, Vahagn, who was also the god of fire, got injured in a battle. While going to find him, Astghik ran over roses and injured her feet. Her blood colored the roses, and red roses became the symbol of love.
From ancient times, people would also celebrate it during the harvest as a gratefulness to have wheat. In July, after finishing main works in fields and harvesting the wheat, they would organize big festivals to bless the harvest and make sacrifices. They would also give each other wheat spikes, take wheat to temples, and sacrifice lambs to gods near rivers. This way people would also honor water and the gods of water.
Whichever symbolism you choose to believe in, if you’re in Armenia on the day of Vardavar, make sure to celebrate the festival with local people and have fun with a lot of awesome memories.