is swept up in holiday shopping
Through the overlaid smoke of wood-burning stoves,
Yerevan is smiling with holiday spirit. Holiday
trees - this year more artificial ones than in
the past - and the usual barrels full of nuts
and fruits are a seasonal market for businesses
looking to cash in on a few weeks of un-cautious
spending that begins about December 20 and last
through Christmas (January 6) and even Old New
Year (January 13).
With pleasure, Arman Hambardzumyan braids two
fir-tree branches together and then decorates
shop windows with them.
"I can't wait for Christmas holidays to
come. It's like a fairy tale between Old and New
years, which lasts only several days. I made a
tradition to decorate the store on December 15,"
Bright and happy colors of the city pass on to
its citizens. By putting aside various problems
people are happy to celebrate the New Year. Sellers
in stores and markets are especially eager for
"We hope we'll have good sales. In any case,
we're optimistic. New Year is one of the most
profitable times of the year. Many are making
money throughout the year, awaiting this day.
It's cold, and we stand here shaking, but what
can we do?" says 46 year-old seller Karo
It's been seven years that he and his sister
Anahit Zakaryan are selling food at Yerevan's
N1 market. They're selling nuts (peanuts, hazelnuts)
and raisins and different kinds of dried fruit.
The selection is bright and attractive. Customers
are unintentionally turning their heads in that
and nuts are a dominant theme of the New
Anahit shows with pride alanis (dried fruit stuffed
with nut and sugar) made of various fruit. They
are placed in special transparent boxes at 4000-5000
drams ($7-8) per kilo.
A woman carrying bags full of shopping items
comes up to them and starts to select.
"A new year table cannot be without nuts
and dried fruit. I prefer alanis made from peaches,
apricots, plums, pears and also dried peaches.
In one corner of the table there has to be aghandz
(roasted grains of wheat)," she says.
Anahit says during this holiday shopping season
they sell 70,000-80,000 drams ($125-140) worth
of dried fruit per day. There are people, she
says, who spend $300-400. Others hardly manage
to buy half a kilo.
"When it comes to prices, we're trying to
adjust to everyone, so that they don't feel bad.
There's a new year ahead, let everyone have fun,"
Holiday shopping for many is a special procedure
that needs special attitude. Many Armenian housewives
became preparations in early autumn.
A grandmother, Astghik, is from Parpi village
in Ashtarak region. She says with a smile, "A
real housewife has to prepare New Year sujoukh
still in October. See, this is what I've made.
Look what a nice color it has."
Sujoukh is sold at 3,000-3,500 drams ($5-6) per
kilo. She sometimes tells customers how she has
made it and why this year it's more expensive.
Zakaryan sells $125-140 of dried fruit per
"First, there weren't many grapes, and sujoukh
is made with grape syrup, that's why it's more
expensive. A cleaned nut has to be strung then
dipped into a syrup from grapes, flour and different
spices, which is called shpot. After dipping it
has to dry. Sujoukh is one of the decorations
for a holiday table."
Armenian traditional New Year tables are like
a gift-box of deserts, cakes, dried fruit and
nuts and drinks. The main decoration of table
is ham baked in a special way or a pork shoulder
or a piglet.
Butcher Vardan Vagharshakyan says about eight
out of 10 people are buying ham at an average
size costing $20. And as the New Year grows closer,
meat prices go up.
"The price for meat has already become 100
drams (20 cents) higher. It will go up by 500
more drams (about $1) or maybe even more, I can't
say. Today one kilo is already 1500 drams ($2.50).
Hurrying is typical of our people, they're afraid
there will be nothing left during the last days,
but there's always a lot remaining at the end,"
Housewife Hasmik Arakelyan says it takes from
$150 to $200 to set a New Year table, "not
mentioning other holiday gifts, table decoration
items, new clothes. If you add those it turns
out a rather large sum, considering the fact that
today many people have no jobs."
However, Hasmik doesn't want to load the conversation
with problems and says that the beginning of New
Year cooking in any family begins with pasuts
tolma (saline cabbage leaves stuffed with beans,
bulgur, peas, lentil, green peas and various spices).
In the morning of December 31 they start preparing
two kinds of meat tolma - with cabbage and grape
leaves. The latter is served with matsun (sour
yogurt) and garlic.
The traditional qyufta is also present at the
table. Sixty-six year-old Nina Stepanyan has been
selling qyufta for 22 years. She says she beats
the meat with a machine. They make it from the
meat of young veal, so that it turns out good
and the customers are satisfied. The price per
one l kilo is 1,500 drams (about $3).
"For the New Year one family buys from 4
to 5 kilos, of course it also depends on their
financial capability. Mainly the well provided
ones are buying qyufta. Each day I sell 30-40
kilos. The price on qyufta does not increase even
during the last days."
Thirty one year-old Lena Minasyan says each year
she refreshes her tableware. This year she spent
$150 on 12 glasses, about $20 on a table cloth,
and some money on plates. The total sum is about
$200. She says with her financial ability she
can spend about $1000 only on food.
However, the festive mood in apartments only
begins when the decorated holiday tree takes it
noble place. Hasmik says she paid 18,000 drams
for a fir-tree and 10,000 for toys and decoration.
"I do everything without complaining or
feeling bad, since you'll spend the new year the
way you start it," she says.