հոգի գնա, ոչ թե անունը
Transliteration: hogi gna, voch’ t’e anuny
Translation: The soul can rise, but the name stays.
Better to die than to have your image/name tarnished.
Background Information: Armenian proverb used by Armenians around the world.
Context: I was told this proverb by the informant when I was interviewing him about his culture. I was specifically interested in learning about Armenian proverbs because of the wide use of them in the Armenian culture.
Thoughts: I think that this proverb definitely provides a glimpse into the Armenian culture. It shows how paramount image can be in Armenian society. It would be better for your soul to leave your body than to have a bad reputation. I think it is interesting to note the matter of fact quality of this proverb. It lacks much use of figurative speech and is very straightforward about its motive/meaning.
إذا ضربت الماء فسيظل الماء.
Transliteration: iidha darabat alma’ fasayazilu alma
Translation: If you hit the water it will still be water
When someone is trying to explain something to someone else and they are not absorbing the information.
Background Information: Common Arabic proverb used in different parts of the middle east such as Lebanon.
Context: The informant had immigrated to the United States from Lebanon when he was in his adolescence. I started interviewing the informant when he visited my house for dinner. I specifically asked him for a common Arabic proverb and this was the first that came into his mind.
Thoughts: I think that this proverb doesn’t explain much about Arabic culture but is just a simple way of explaining that someone is not understanding what you are saying. It reminds me of the American proverb that says that “talking to you is like talking to a wall”. This just means that that there is no productive communication being made.
Translation: Oh Tamar
Description by Informant:
There was an Armenian Princess named Tamar who lived at Lake Van which is a historic lake in Armenia. She was in love with a common man (a peasant). According to legend, the guy would swim from the island to mainland to see Princess Tamar. Tamar would hold a light for him so he could see as he swam in the lake to come see her. One day her father finds out and follows her. As she was holding the light, her father approached her and smashed the light. Therefore, leaving the man in the middle of the lake without any light and direction to swim. Legend says that he died in the lake crying “Akhtamar, Akhtamar!” (Oh, Tamar Oh Tamar!). Those words can be heard to this day at night at the lake. The island was later renamed Akhtamar.
Background Information: This is a famous legend in Armenia, especially near the city of Akhtamar. The legend is kept alive through memorates by people who allege that they have heard the words Akhtamar near the lake.
Context: The informant told me about this legend during a conversation in which I asked her to tell me about an Armenian legend that she knows about.
Thoughts: Legends are often told as a way to tell us what to believe. The island of Akhtamar is no longer a part of Armenia as it has been occupied by Turkey. I think this legend is used as a reminder that this land was once Armenia’s and that in a sense it still is to this day because you can “hear” the remnants of the past through the commoner’s voice crying for his love Tamar.
Explanation: Armenians have some superstitious custom not to show or introduce a newborn baby to friends, neighbors, or extended families for the first 40 days. It is believed that this is done for the safety and medical precaution for the baby, but it can also be done to protect the baby from the evil eye/ evil spirits.
Background Information: Widely popular Armenian custom for newborn babies. Almost every Armenian follows this precaution when they have a baby.
Context: The informant told me about this custom during a video call in which I asked her to tell me about an Armenian tradition/custom that she knows about.
Thoughts: As an Armenian myself, I have observed this custom being practiced in my own family when a member has had a baby. I think it is done to make sure that the baby is safe and healthy. Im sure it was done in the past because of the high infant mortality rate in the Armenian villages due to disease and malnutrition. This has translated to modern day even though, the chances of disease and malnurtrition in babies is much lower than before. I think the health of babies is so crucial for Armenians because of how important it is for them to continue on the Armenian culture/ heritage due to the Turkish attempt at genocide against Armenians in the early 20th century.
Transliteration: Pasus Tolma
Translation: Lent’s Stuffed cabbage
Description: Pasus Tolma is a popular Armenian dish which is a lent classic meal that most Armenians eat not only for lent but also year round. Pasus Tolma can be see seen on the table’s of any Armenian gatherings such as birthdays, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and other gatherings, but it is the most popular dish before Easter when people are on the lent diet. Pasus Tolma is cabbage leaves stuffed with beans, lentil’s, garbanzo beans and bulgar. Best served cold.
Background Information: Pasus Tolma is a popular traditional Armenian dish prepared primarily for lent but can be served at many different gatherings.
Context: The informant told me about this dish during a video call in which I asked her to tell me about an Armenian traditional recipe that she knows about.
Thoughts: As an Armenian I am also aware of this dish and have participated in its consumption during lent. The name Pasus Tolma literally translates as a Lent version of Tolma which is a popular Armenian dish that is comprised of cabbage leaves stuffed with meat. I understand why this dish would be used in lent as Georgian Christians do not eat meat during lent so they had to make a vegetarian version of the popular dish Tolma. This is a folk religious tradition/recipe because it is not an official meal for lent. It was made by the people as a way to find something to eat during lent. It is also folklore because of its multiplicity and variation. Some versions use rice instead of bulgar and other iterations have different legumes instead of garbanzo beans and lentils.
7 пятниц в неделю
Transliteration: 7 pyatnits v nedelyu
Translation: 7 Fridays in a week
Proverb used to describe a person who has a lot of plans, but they never get the work done.
Background Information: Russian proverb used in many parts of Russia. The informant told me that back then, Friday was the market day in which people could collect the goods one week and the next they would pay for them. Sometimes people would not pay and make excuses as to why they didn’t pay.
Context: The informant told me this proverb during a video call in which I asked her to tell me a popular Russian proverb.
Thoughts: I think this proverb is used to describe unreliable people who make too many excuses. I believe this shows that Russian’s appreciate reliability and detest fickle behavior.
Translation: Butter Week
Description: This is a spring equinox pancake holiday. During the festival everyone eats pancakes, burns dolls made of hay (effigies). The burning of the dolls is mostly done in villages. They also jump over a pit of fire. Maslenitsa is a Pagan holiday. The holiday is a way of celebrating the coming of spring and a way to sacrifice to the gods for a fruitful spring/rest of the year.
Background Information: It is a Russian and Eastern Slavic religious and folk holiday. It is celebrated the last week before Lent.
Context: The informant told me this holiday during a video call in which I asked her to tell me about a Russian holiday that she knows about.
Thoughts: As a religious holiday I think it is celebrated to prepare for lent and to get ready for the spring. Russia has had a long history of war, government overturnings, famines, etc. I think this holiday was made as a way to ensure a safe and healthy year. As a pagan tradition, I think it is interesting to observe its lasting effects to the present day. It shows that life hasn’t become simpler and that people are still trying to ask for prosperity and peace.
Если вы спешите, вы будете смеяться всех
Transliteration: Yesli vy speshite, vy budete smeyat’sya vsekh
Translation: If you rush, you will make everybody laugh
You shouldn’t rush when working on something because you will end up being laughed at.
Background Information: Russian proverb used in colloquial conversations.
Context: The informant told me this proverb during a video call in which I asked her to tell me a popular Russian proverb.
Thoughts: I think that this proverb represent the kind of work ethic that Russians appreciate. It is not about the quantity of the work, but the quality. I also think that it is an example of the importance of self presentation in Russian society. It is more important to take your time and not look like a fool than to rush and embarrass yourself by being hasty.
Name of Ritual : Matakh (մաթախ)
Description: The Ritual involves the sacrifice of a goat or a cow. They use the blood from the sacrifice to put a cross on a child or a person who has gone through a difficult ordeal. The blood needs to stay on for one day. After the sacrifice, they must cook the meat and distribute it to 7 houses.
Background: The informant is of Armenian Lebanese descent and has lived in America since their adolescent years. They say that this ritual is very common among Armenian communities around the world. This is usually done if someone has struggled with a harrowing ordeal such as cancer, an accident, or family death. This is done as a way to be thankful for surviving the ordeal and somewhat asking for better times and continued peace. The informant says that this ritual has origins in Paganism although they couldn’t elaborate more on that topic due to lack of knowledge on it.
Context: The informant told me this during a conversation about folklore at dinner.
Thoughts: I definitely can relate to this piece because I am also of Armenian descent and I myself have took part in Matakhs. It is definitely a sacred ritual that is done during very hard times. This is done among families and is very personal. I think it is interesting that this ritual has a pagan origin. I did not know much about its origin and would not have attributed it to paganism because Armenians are very devout Christians. I think this shows how Pagan rituals have carried onto Christian traditions.
Joke: There is a funeral for a woman. Someone at the funeral asks the son-in-law how his mother-in-law died. He says that she died from poisoning. The other person then asks why she had so many bruises. The son-in-law states that this is because she did not want to eat.
The point of the joke is that the son-in-law had forcefully poisoned his mother-in-law, alluding to a tumultuous and strained relationship between son and mother in law.
Background Information: Armenian Joke. Not necessarily exclusive to Armenian culture as it is a pretty common topic which shows the often rocky relationship people have with their in-laws.
Context: I was told this joke during a dinner in which we were sharing common jokes within our communities. This was the first joke that came to his mind. He was a little adamant when it came to telling the joke because of its morose content. I assured him that it didn’t matter to me. He told me that this joke was told to him by a few of his male friends at a house gathering.
Thoughts: I believe that this is a joke that looks at the sometimes difficult relationship with parents-in law. This idea has been explored through many cultures, including American culture with films such as Monster-In-Law and Meet The Fockers. It is often difficult to connect and have a good relationship with your in-laws. I think jokes, like this one, are used as a coping mechanism and as a way to make light of a difficult situation/relationship. I find it interesting that this joke was brought up at a house gathering in which a group of males felt comfortable telling this joke, but when it came to telling it to other people such as women, the informant felt uncomfortable. I think this shows that this topic is an uncomfortable one and is meant for very specific groups that will be able to understand and relate to the topic matter.