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Traditionally, Armenians make a bonfire, go round it and jump over the fire on the evening of February 13 or early on February 14 when the Armenian Church celebrates the Candlemas Day, or Diarnt’arach (Trndez), which is one of the most beloved holidays among newly-weds. “Tearnendarach means “come before God.” People call it also “Terndez, Trndez, Trntes,” which are different variants of “God be with you.”
The celebration of the Trndez is pagan in origin and is connected with sun/fire worship in ancient pre-Christian Armenia, symbolizing the coming of spring and fertility. The holiday meant to strengthen the heat of the sun, influencing cold with the help of fire. Originally, the fire symbolized the birth of Vahagn and the young women jumping over it were said to have done so in order to bear strong and intelligent male children. It was a holiday dedicated to Mihr and/or Tyr, the gods of fire and knowledge, respectively. Mihr was also the god best known for his loving and compassionate nature, comparing to the modern view of Jesus Christ. The Church adopted this holiday as one of its own for possibly this very reason.
This is a joyful holiday in all provinces and villages of Armenia, as well as in capital Yerevan, celebrated by young adults, newly-weds and all families in general. People make bonfires in their yards, make circles and go round the bonfire, and in the end they jump over the flame. Newly-weds jump over the fire in couples, and on this day recently married women usually receive gifts from their mothers-in-law.
According to a church ritual, the faithful go to churches and take the lit candles home to their families. This is considered to be a Christian feast for newly-weds and families. “The tradition of making a bonfire resembles the Lord’s light and warmth, and it must not be confused with pagan rituals, when fire was idolized and worshipped. According to Grigor Tatevatsi’s interpretation, jumping over the fire we show its being ignoble and low,” says priest Ter Adam Makaryan.
The faithful take a lit branch from or light their candles by the blessed bonfire lit in the churchyard, with the idea that it will illuminate their year until the next Diarnt’arach. In the olden traditions, the bonfire would be lit at the center of the village, created with the collected wood by the villagers, ones that they would later take to light their own bonfires on their own lands. As such, on this night, villages would be ablaze with joyfully tended infernos.
As a rule, the fire was built in the yards of engaged girls with the mothers and fathers-in-law visiting their future bride and bringing roasted grains of wheat, porridge made from flour, sweets, scarves and ornaments. It was considered to be a celebration specifically for the future brides. According to the ancient Armenian traditions, the engaged man had no right to see his future wife during the period where they were not yet married, but on this day he would be allowed to enjoy her company and more often than not, see her for the first time. The fire would be left to burn until there was nothing left bat charred branches and ashes which were taken home by the family members in order to protect the household and bring in good luck.
Priest Ter Markos Mangasaryan explains that jumping over the fire symbolizes joy and happiness for newly-wed youths and families, and it has nothing in common with people’s superstition of getting rid of threats and misfortunes and making wishes, because the true religious belief contradicts the superstitions. (armenianow) However, in the traditional aspects of this part of the ceremony, the young couples would circle round the fire in an attempt to rid their marriage of evil’s grasp, dance and sing, while enjoying fresh jams, porridge, roasted grains, etc.
The word ‘Diarnt’arach’ symbolizes the presentation of the 40 day-old Christ Child to the Temple in Jerusalem and glorifies Simeon’s articulation of “a Light to lighten the Gentiles”. This is an appeal to all faithful people to implement the will of God. On the morning of the Feast Day (February 14), divine liturgies are offered at Armenian churches around the world, followed by the blessing of newly-weds.