Trndez (or Candlemas Day)

“The tradition says that during the time a couple is engaged, the husband-to-be may not see his future wife except on Candlemas day. The wood to be burned on Candlemas Day is blessed by the priest before being taken to be used for the tradition. The wood is set on fire and let burn until it dies out, and the carbon is then used to cross the doors of the wife-to-be to protect her from evil. The tradition dates back to pagan times as fire is a symbol of pagan traditions, but the Christian Apostolic church still holds true to the tradition and adopted it to their beliefs due to its positive message of love and fertility.”

The informant was born and raised in Armenia and moved to the United States when she was about fifteen years old. It was a time that she was dating a non-Armenian individual and who her parents were somewhat hesitant to accept. However, she was able to lighten the mood by engaging in a discussion about an Armenian wedding tradition, where people gather in the yard of the newly engaged young woman, and set up a fire and take turns to jump over it. The ritual is performed as part of preparation for the future of newly formed couples, as it acts to diminish the evils and misfortunes by bringing to light good fortune and happiness. The wedding ritual is typically taught during the time a daughter was expected to marry.

She informed me about the history. Forty days after Jesus’ birth on the night of February 13th, the ritual of Trndez was usually performed outside of the young bride-to-be’s house. The ritual involves the family of the future bride and groom. What makes it so interesting for the informant is that it plays on tradition coming from thousands of years ago with an unconventional twist (i.e. jumping over fire). Nonetheless, it is a celebration of love and support for newly formed couples and their families.

This ritual reminds me of the African rendition of  “jumping the broom,” where couples are asked to jump over a broomstick after relaying their vows. But it in this case, Trndez is done prior to the wedding. Like the “jumping the broom” tradition, it is indicative of a liminal phase between the engagement and the wedding. I believe it serves, in many ways, to alleviate the fears that come with being officially married. Like jumping over the fire, marriage can be perceived as a challenge, as it indicates one’s status in society and provides one with more responsibilities. Having these unique ethnic rituals is also indicative of how certain cultures form relationships. For example, in traditional Armenian culture, parents often prefer Armenians to marry within their culture. And the fact that they have their own group rituals makes it easier to accept individuals within their culture that are most likely going to understand how and why these rituals are performed, rather than those who have not received such exposure (i.e. non-Armenians). Nonetheless, it can be understood as a way to identify certain ethnic groups.