Tag Archives: Armenian

Armenian Wedding Money Dance

Context: Matrimony is a special liminal, or transitional, period in a person’s life. In some cultures it marks the transition from a woman being owned by her father to owned by her husband. In some it marks the beginning of a monetary relationship between two families, like a mutual advancement in social class. Regardless, for cultures that have a tradition about the liminal event of marriage, most often the tradition is in regards to future prosperity, success, or fertility. Here, informant GG explains the Armenian wedding traditions, shedding light on similarities between them and the western traditions.

Main Text: Transcript:

GG: Armenian weddings are known to be really over the top. Parents, relatives, family- they really spare no expense in going all out with like the food, the entertainment…  One tradition is that the bride and groom, they get together… and then people will gather around and they’ll throw stacks of money into the air. It’s just like a constant stream of people… usually it’s the males of the families, and they’ll come up and they throw like a hundred bucks worth of ones in the air and it’s like flowing down. They create a circle where they throw it from all these different angles, and it’s supposed to signify wealth and abundance at the start of the marriage, and it gets intense sometimes. There’ll be like piles of cash on the floor or like little kids running around trying to grab some. Some people need… big ‘ol brooms by the end to sweep all the money up. 

HR: That’s amazing, that sounds hilarious! [Laughs] So lots of western traditions have wedding gifts. Is that like in lieu of a wedding gift, people just instead walk up and throw wads of cash at the bride and groom?

GG: They still do give gifts, but they’re not as big as in the west.

I continued to speak with GG about this tradition and found that he’d been apart of many money dances at Armenian weddings, not as the thrower or the groom but as a kid, running in and trying to snag money for himself! 

Thoughts: I think that the nature of liminal periods includes some kind of uncertainty about the future. When one makes the transition from one stage in life to another, they often turn to traditions regarding luck or guidance. The transition from single to married carries plenty of uncertainty, so the Armenian Money Dance tradition is a way of wishing the newly-weds monetary luck in the coming years. 

Duduk Armenian Folk Instrument

Context: The duduk is an Armenian instrument originating some 3000 years ago. It is a wind instrument which was at one point made of bone, but now it’s made from wood. The Armenian Genocide took place from 1915 to 1923 and it included the targeted murder of around one million Armenians. Informant GG describes the duduk’s use and cultural significance.

Main Piece: Transcript:

GG: There’s usually two people playing [the duduk]. One plays a steady “dum” while the other plays on top. The interesting thing about it is how somber it sounds… It’s usually associated with sad things like the Armenian Genocide… if you see anything about that you’ll notice in the background that the Duduk is what’s being played.

The duduk is often played at live performances today, and as GG said, it’s somber sound can be associated closely with tragic events, such as the Armenian Genocide, or at funerals and community services. 

Thoughts: Music which accompanies a cultural aspect of society can often set the tone for how that culture is represented to its participants. Because Armenians have historically experienced such terrible events, the use of the duduk as a cultural instrument to display feelings of sadness can help non-Armenians understand the loss that the country and people saw with the Armenian Genocide. 

Armenian Pre-Christmas Tradition

Context: Due to the sharing of culture between European nations, many traditions and holidays share seemingly universal themes. For example, Christmas traditions in European countries often have themes in common such as generosity, kindness, and teaching respect to children, even if the details of the traditions are different. The same concept applies to the Armenian Christmas tradition. 

Note: This logic applies strictly to modern European and Western traditions.

Main Piece: Armenian Christmas takes place on the 6th of January, and informant GG explained that the time from New Years (Jan 1) to Christmas was celebrated with a particular tradition. For the first six days of the new year, you can visit anybody in town throughout the day, and “everybody is expected to both have and be company. They set out huge tables, and there’s always food on it because they know that at any moment people could show up!” In many Western countries, Christmas is a time when extended family and friends are invited to eat and give gifts for the whole day, but the Armenian tradition extends far beyond that! GG said that, despite the stress of it, “they all love it, [even though] the wives are a little stressed because they’re always cooking…” to keep fresh food on the table at all times for the whole day! At that, all of this is simply leading up to Christmas itself! 

Thoughts: I think that this tradition is a wonderful example of folklore that encourages and strengthens bonds between people! As GG said it, “It’s like a giant party for 6 days,” and I believe that the reason why it’s practiced is because it’s fun! Regardless of the expense, stress, or waste it might incur, the whole concept of expecting everyone to both be and serve guests seems like a beautiful tradition. 

Bread In Armenia

Informant’s Background:

My informant, AD, is an undergraduate student at USC who grew up in Glendale, California. Her family immigrated to the United States from the capital of Armenia, Yerevan, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Context:

The informant is my girlfriend and we share an apartment together. I asked her if she could share some Armenian folklore with me, and this is one of the pieces that she provided.

Performance:

AD: “This one time, I didn’t know this, but this one time, I like grabbed some lavash and I threw it into the trash, like really hard after dinner because it was like moldy and old. And I was like being stupid, and joking around with it, so I was like “PHEW!” and it landed in the trash and my mom gasped and my sisters gasped at me, and I felt… weird, and I felt like everyone was looking at me and that was because the bread… I was not supposed to do that with bread. Since it is very sacred in Armenian homes, especially lavash, uhm, you are supposed to treat them with respect because if you do not it is… a sign of like, disrespect, uhm, bad fortune, and like not caring about the things that are provided to you.”

M: “Is this bread specifically?”

AD: “Yes, bread specifically, like lavash bread, and like, like hats bread.”

M: “Why do you think it’s specifically bread?”

AD: “Because bread is so like common in Armenian tradition, and like most other cultural traditions, it is like the staple food that people eat when there is like no other food. It’s like, it is sacred in a way.”

M: “Ok, can you tell me about some of those kinds of breads you mentioned?”

AD: “Uhm, lavash bread is like the Armenian national bread, it is like a flat bread, that like, it is made by elder women in villages, in like a big pit that they have. Usually outside, in like a yard or a small hut or something, where they press the bread flat against the wall, and then cook it and eat it that way. And then there’s like hats, which is just regular bread. But there’s like specific kinds of hats, like matnakash, which is like bread where the dough has been, had a finger pulled through it, like a finger pulls through the dough, like a cooks finger, and it makes perforations in the bread. Yeah, that’s how you make it.”

Thoughts:

I think it is interesting and actually very important that it is bread specifically that is held to this sacred standard in Armenia. Sure, other foods may be more difficult to produce or cost more, but by holding the most basic and one of the most easily accessible food items to such esteem, it ensures that a family is thankful for even the smallest of things when it comes to putting food on the table and it seems to be to be a very good-natured and humbling tradition in this way.

“Bhaghnikt Anush Lini” – Armenian Saying

Informant’s Background:

My informant, AD, is an undergraduate student at USC who grew up in Glendale, California. Her family immigrated to the United States from the capital of Armenia, Yerevan, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Context:

The informant is my girlfriend and we share an apartment together. I asked her if she could share some Armenian folklore with me, and this is one of the pieces that she provided.

Translation:

  • Original Script: Բաղնիքտ անուշ լինի:
  • Transliteration: “Bhaghnikt Anush Lini”
  • Translation: “Have a fresh shower” or “Have a sweet shower”

Performance:

AD: “So there’s thing that’s like pretty common in like Armenian families that like my parents don’t really do that often but sometimes it happens. So there’s this thing in Armenian culture where after a shower you-or before a shower they will say like “Bhaghnikt Anush Lini” which means like… Uhm, it’s like a blessing for the shower, like they’re blessing the water from, like, the bathroom so that you have a nice fresh shower.”

M: “Where do you think it originated from?”

AD: “Uhm, probably like pagan beliefs that have just like carried over, over the years in like y’know the sanctity of water and stuff in Armenian culture, and in most cultures. It’s probably just a carry-over from those years.”

Informant’s Thoughts:

AD: ” It’s, uhm, a very common saying, and I don’t think I’ve heard any other saying that’s quite like it, so that’s interesting. It’s a way of giving thanks, and like, asking for good fortune, right? I think that’s very nice.”

Thoughts:

I don’t really feel I have much to say about this one. It seems to fit in well with some of the other traditions I’ve collected from this informant, as it seems that based on my collection many Armenian traditions are based around giving thanks for “small” things, such as bread in a previous article of mine, so this fits very nicely in with that category of traditions.