- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
February 13, 2004

Bonfire of the Amities: Trndez festival fans the flames of love

Purity by fire.

The crackle and color of bonfires draws the attention of people who gather for a noisy and wonderful festival. This fire has a special meaning, reflected in the faith that burns in the radiant eyes of the young people.

Once a year, both young and old go a little crazy at the festival of Trndez (Purification) that begins on February 14. According to popular tradition, this magic feast enables people to cast out negative emotions and bring happiness into their lives.

The ceremony of Trndez begins in church, reflected in the name. The Tiarnandaraj (coming forward [andaraj] to Lord [Ter]) feast of the Armenian Apostolic Church is regarded as the day when a 40 day old Jesus was taken to the Temple in Jerusalem to consecrate him to God. According to the New Testament, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the Temple to offer a sacrifice. On their way they met Simeon the Old, who had been assured by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before seeing the Messiah. Taking the child in his arms the old man blessed and thanked God. So that was how the name of the feast of Tirojn andaraj or Tiarnandaraj originated.

Nowadays, however, the festival has a folk character, with people often knowing only the national traditions and rituals that they associate with Trndez.

“According to tradition, families with newly married or newly engaged couples celebrate Trndez in the grand style,” says Mariam Galstyan, a resident of Yerevan. “If young people are engaged then they celebrate Trndez in the girl's home, but if they are married they celebrate the holiday in the young man's home. On that day, guests give expensive presents and gifts to the hosts, who in their turn set out rich tables of food and drink. All of them spend the day singing, dancing and playing music until the time for the festive bonfires comes.”

The flame to start the Trndez bonfires must be brought from a church so that it can be blessed and serve its purpose. The fire is brought after evening mass. Believers carry specially lit candles from the church to illuminate their homes as a symbol of Christ's saving light, then set the bonfire in the yard.

“Trndez is like a fairy tale, especially in our city, where there are numerous churches,” says Liudmila Khachatryan, who lives in Echmiatsin. “In the evening after the Mass people slowly and calmly with candles in their hands go home to continue the celebrations of the feast and take the consecrated flame from the churches to their houses.”

If people in villages are happy to celebrate around one big bonfire, in the capital people in just one multistory building can light several fires at the same time with different families gathered around each one singing and making noise.

Once the bonfire has been lit, the festivities move from the home onto the street, where several ritual dishes are consumed. Hostesses or grandmothers bring beautifully decorated dishes that they have prepared such as sweet halvah, pokhindz, aghandz, fruits and confectionery which are distributed among all those present, especially the excited children.

People believe that the warmth of the festive fire symbolizes the end of the winter and the coming of warm spring days. In some villages, people try to predict the fortunes of others, whether they will have good luck or health, by looking at the shape of the flames or watching the direction in which the smoke turns in the wind.

Participants in the Trndez celebrations join hands in a circle around bonfire and dance around it seven times, singing. Then in turns, regardless of their age, they jump over the fire seven times each. The number seven is regarded as possessing the power to protect people and bring success.

Barren women also jump over the fire with hopes that they will become pregnant, while single girls leap in hope of finding their future husbands. If the flames burn a small corner of their dresses, it is considered the best guarantee that their dreams will be realized.

“When during Trndez people jump through the fire all evils and evil thoughts leave them and peace together with happiness visit them,” says 70-year-old Tsaghkush Ginosyan. “At the end, people take a few pinches of the bonfire's ashes to their houses so that the year brings success and richness to them.”

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You wait 12 years for a baby and then three come along at once...Karina Maisuradze-Gevorkyan became the proud mother of triplets, two girls and one boy, on February 5 at Yerevan's Maternity Research Center. Karina had been trying to have a child for 12 years without success before approaching the center and undergoing fertility treatment.




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