- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
February 06, 2004

Thirsty Faith: St. Sargis brings nuptial news via dreams and salt

Sweet, salty dreams

Each year before the Day of St. Sargis Manush Soghomonyan and her friends prepare for one of the year's most mysterious and interesting traditions.

"Just like many youngsters, every year I'm impatiently waiting for this day," says 16 year-old Manush. "It's a day which can reveal many secrets of your future."

This year the Day of St.Sargis in Armenia is celebrated February 7. It is sort of like Valentine's Day, but with Armenian nuances.

According to folklore, the mighty military leader St.Sargis fell in love with the daughter of a Greek king. He stole the girl, and in order to escape his pursuers started a severe blizzard. In so doing, St. Sargis became something like the patron saint of young love. It is told that there is always wind on St. Sargis Day.

Commemoration of the day includes church services in which young people are blessed. But what makes the day unique is the custom of making and eating salt bread.

"Salt bread is an Armenian tradition coming from old times," says ethnographer and doctor of historical sciences Zhenya Khachatryan. "It gives a chance for single young men and women to see in their dream who's chosen for their life."

According to the tradition, on the eve of St. Sargis Day, the unmarried should fast all day, then eat salt bread -- a round-shaped small and very salty bread which has to be prepared by either a middle aged, kind housewife who is happy in her marriage and believes the sacrament of the day or by the family's grandmother.

The recipe of salt bread is very simple. It is made from flour, salt and water without yeast or other additions. Those who wish to can have the salt bread or its components blessed at church.

"Salt bread has no ritual meaning," Khachtryan says. "The bread is meant to make one thirsty, which, people say, brings about the desired result."

By staying hungry during the whole day youngsters have salt bread before going to bed and then keeping the feeling of strong thirst they go to sleep without drinking water and without saying anything.

According to the tradition on that night St. Sargis intercedes to God and with his help shows the younger ones their future wife or husband. Whoever offers water to a young man or a woman in their dream will become their future wife or husband. If a young man or a woman does not see anyone in a dream, they should not be discouraged, since according to the ethnographer, it can take years for the longed for dream to come.

"I had salt bread last year, but in my dream I saw a sea and no one offered me water," says Karine Khachatryan. "I'll try this year. Maybe I'll be lucky and will see my future husband."

"I deeply believe the tradition of salt bread, since thanks to it my mother saw my father. So having that faith for many years I would eat salt bread, but with no result," says 25 year-old Yeva Smbatyan. "But two years ago I saw him in a dream, the long waited one. The young man approached me and offered me a martini instead of water."

Yeva says even though that was a strange offer in a dream, nowadays such a dream can be accepted.

"I almost forgot about my dream and never took it seriously until I met him, the chosen one," says Yeva. "He was wearing the same clothes and offered that we go to some bar. We hardly sat there when he, Emil, order a martini for me without even asking. Can you imagine? Maybe that tradition is more of a clan thing in our family, I don't know, but my boyfriend and I are together for more than a year and are going to get married in the nearest time. So that night's dream had great meaning."

Ethnographer Khachatryan says that just like the sacrament of salt bread dreams have their own history and comments.

"In the morning younger ones wake up and start discussing their dream with the elder ones of the family. It is also a tradition." says Khachtryan. "If the chosen one has offered water in a golden cup, then they'll have a wealthy and well-provided family. If the water is clear, then the family will be honest, if it's muddy there will be difficulties and cheating in the family and so on. This day has different moods and different stories; however the important thing is people's faith which serves as a beginning for everything."

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