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 January 17, 2003 

Mad about Luck: Tough night for Santa as chilly Yerevantsis battle cold for tarehats

One, two, three and Santa Claus, seized by the fright and hardly saving his beard, very quickly left the crowd which went mad, leaving his precious sack full of tarehats at the hands of police. At the night of January 12 the big celebration dedicated to the Armenian Old New Year reached its peak on Republican Square.

Numerous participants ignoring the cold and discomfort started to crowd joyfully and push each other.

"This day is the greatest celebration of the New Year for all of us," says head of the Department of Culture, Sport and Youth Affairs of the Yerevan municipality Arman Sahakyan, shaking from the cold, "almost everyone celebrates December 31 at their places and houses but during this celebration everybody hurries to come here to celebrate old traditional New Year on the Republican Square."

The celebration started under the lights and symbol of the fir tree that became incredibly beautiful from cold and snow. Almost all stars of Armenian pop and folk music participated in the celebration. As soon as they heard their names they ran on the stage and the music continued.

And the showman was moving with every performer on the stage and performing together with them not to freeze. As a result of that one could not sometimes even understand who is singing, the singer or the emcee and organizer Gevorg.

"Despite unusual things happening the day was really festive for us. And this year it was organized even more interesting," says singer Hasmik Karapetyan, "In the celebration almost everybody without thinking twice was taking part with joy. It's very cold. However, there are ways to resist it. We wear warm clothes and as much as possible we move and jump together with people both on the stage and out of the stage. And in this case there is nothing terrible at all."

"According to old Armenian calendar January 13 is a New Year and we also tried to keep some of old Armenian traditions," says chief specialist of the department Anahit Markosyan, "the most important is the ceremony of distributing tarehats among people and it's not the first year it's done so."

According to ethnographers tarehats is one of the national traditions that has the most symbolic and interesting history. Even in ancient Armenia a mistress of a house baked tarehats on the New Year Eve. Tarehats, which symbolizes past and future, is round and a little bit sweet azyme decorated with spices and wheat made of dough with the patterns of wheatears. Tarehats was equally distributed among all members of a family. The most interesting part of that ceremony was that the mistress always put beforehand something into tarehats - metal coin, bead or button and the one who found it in his piece of tarehats was considered to be the most lucky in the family that year. According to the tradition peace and luck will follow that person the whole year.

On the square the ceremony of distributing the luck, tarehats, started in the middle of the celebration. For organizing the most convenient celebration it was decided to prepare numerous small tarehats instead of one big.

Several Santa Clauses were standing all over the square and distributed thousands of tarehats among people and only in 12 of them one could find lucky beads.

"Many people know that there are beads of luck in tarehats and if they find those beads they will be able to get gifts like household stuff from under the fir-tree," says teacher Lusine Hayrapetyan. "some people got excited because of those gifts and presents, however, the most important is the luck, which is brought by those beads and not by the presents."

For some people the ceremony was just an entertainment and for others it was luck of the whole coming years, which they didn't want to miss.

"Everybody was making noise and crying for tarehats," says student Naneh Shahnazaryan. "They were singing and dancing not to get cold. It is very interesting. And Santa Clauses after being pushed and pulled will probably recall this day with smiles."


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