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Celebrating Easter In Armenia


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Edi Kiss



Easter is a joyous and significant religious celebration for Christians around the world. It commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, symbolizing new life, hope, and the triumph of light over darkness. While Easter is widely celebrated in many countries, each region adds its own unique traditions and cultural flavors to the festivities.


In this article, we will explore the vibrant and captivating Easter celebrations in Armenia. Nestled in the southwestern region of Asia, Armenia has a rich cultural heritage and a long-standing Christian history. The Armenian Orthodox Church plays a central role in the lives of Armenians, and Easter is one of the most important religious holidays.


Armenia is renowned for its ancient churches, breathtaking landscapes, and warm hospitality. During Easter, the country comes alive with vibrant traditions, rituals, and festive gatherings that reflect the deep-rooted faith and cultural heritage of its people.


Join us on a journey as we delve into the history, traditions, and festivities of celebrating Easter in Armenia. Discover the unique customs, the beauty of its religious ceremonies, and the mouthwatering traditional foods that add flavor to this significant holiday.


History of Easter in Armenia

The celebration of Easter in Armenia dates back to the early days of Christianity. Armenia became the first nation to officially adopt Christianity as its state religion in 301 AD, under the reign of King Tiridates III. This momentous event occurred during the time of St. Gregory the Illuminator, who played a significant role in spreading the Christian faith throughout the country.


As a result of this early embrace of Christianity, Easter has been an integral part of Armenian culture for centuries. The Armenian Orthodox Church follows the ancient Julian calendar, which means that Easter in Armenia is celebrated on a different date than in Western Christianity. While many countries celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox, Armenia celebrates Easter on the Sunday following the Feast of the Ascension.


The history of Easter in Armenia is intertwined with the country’s tumultuous past. Despite periods of foreign rule and persecution, the Armenian people have steadfastly maintained their Christian traditions. Throughout the centuries, Easter has served as a symbol of resilience, unity, and spiritual renewal.


Another significant event in the history of Armenian Easter is the adoption of the Holy Fire ritual, which originated in the 4th century. This tradition involves the miraculous lighting of lamps and candles inside the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, believed to be the burial place of Jesus. The Holy Fire is then distributed to various Orthodox churches, including Armenia, where it is eagerly received and celebrated.


Today, Easter remains one of the most cherished and deeply rooted traditions in Armenia. It is a testament to the enduring faith and cultural identity of the Armenian people, who continue to pass down their customs and beliefs from one generation to the next.


Traditional Armenian Easter Celebrations

In Armenia, Easter is a time of joy, devotion, and celebration. The week leading up to Easter, known as Holy Week or Holy Week of the Resurrection, is marked by a series of religious ceremonies and observances.


One of the most significant traditions during Armenian Easter is the lighting of candles and the Blessing of the Holy Fire. On Easter Eve, worshippers gather in churches throughout the country, holding lit candles and eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Holy Fire. As the flame from Jerusalem is brought to the Armenian churches, it is believed to symbolize the light of Christ spreading to the world. The faithful then take the Holy Fire back to their homes, where it is kept lit throughout the year as a symbol of divine presence and protection.


Decorating eggs is another cherished tradition during Armenian Easter. Known as “pazil,” these eggs are intricately decorated using various techniques and vibrant colors. The eggs are often adorned with traditional Armenian motifs, religious symbols, and intricate patterns. They are then displayed in homes and exchanged as gifts among friends and family members as a token of good luck and prosperity.


The Easter Church Services are a focal point of the Armenian Easter celebrations. The faithful attend the midnight liturgy, which is known as the “First Badarak” or “First Divine Liturgy,” marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The churches are adorned with flowers and candles, creating a solemn and reverent atmosphere. The service is accompanied by beautiful hymns and prayers, and the climax of the liturgy is the proclamation of Christ’s resurrection, followed by joyful celebrations and embraces among the congregation.


No Armenian Easter celebration is complete without the traditional Easter feast. Families come together to share a delicious meal, which often includes traditional dishes such as “khorovats” (grilled meat), “dolma” (stuffed grape leaves), “kufta” (meatballs), and “gata” (sweet bread). These mouthwatering delicacies are prepared with love and shared with joy, symbolizing abundance and togetherness.


On Easter Monday, Armenians partake in a unique and playful tradition known as the Water Festival. This tradition involves dousing each other with water, symbolizing purification, and renewal. Families and friends gather to splash water on each other, often in the form of water fights or throwing buckets of water. It is a lighthearted and fun-filled way to celebrate the arrival of spring and the joy of Easter.


These traditional Armenian Easter celebrations serve as a reminder of the country’s rich cultural heritage and religious devotion. They bring families and communities together, fostering a sense of unity, joy, and spiritual rejuvenation.


Blessing of the Holy Fire

The Blessing of the Holy Fire is one of the most revered and mystical traditions during Armenian Easter. It is a sacred ceremony that signifies the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the spreading of divine light throughout the world.


The origins of this tradition date back to the 4th century, when St. Gregory the Illuminator introduced Christianity to Armenia. It is believed that during his visit to Jerusalem, St. Gregory witnessed the Miracle of the Holy Fire, where a flame spontaneously erupted from the Holy Sepulchre, the tomb of Jesus. Inspired by this miraculous event, St. Gregory brought the tradition of the Holy Fire back to Armenia, and it has been celebrated ever since.


On Easter Eve, thousands of worshippers gather inside Armenian churches, holding unlit candles. The atmosphere is filled with anticipation and reverence as they anxiously await the arrival of the Holy Fire from Jerusalem. A representative from the Armenian Church, known as the “Nakhnagust,” travels to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where the Holy Fire miraculously ignites at the moment of supplication.


Once the Holy Fire is lit, it is carefully brought back to Armenia inside a special container. The journey of the Holy Fire is met with great excitement and reverence, as it is believed to be a divine presence and a symbol of Christ’s resurrection. The faithful line the streets, holding their candles, eagerly waiting for the arrival of the Holy Fire.


Upon arrival, the Holy Fire is received with joyous celebrations and hymns of praise. The flame is then distributed to the priests and the congregation, who eagerly light their own candles from the sacred fire. This act symbolizes the spreading of divine light and the presence of Christ among the worshippers.


The Holy Fire is also taken to various regions across Armenia, where people who are unable to attend the main ceremony in the capital city can receive the blessed flame. These regional lighting ceremonies foster a sense of unity and allow Armenians from all corners of the country to share in the joy and spiritual significance of the Holy Fire.


Throughout the year, the Holy Fire is carefully guarded and kept lit inside Armenian churches. It serves as a constant reminder of God’s presence and protection. The faithful believe that the Holy Fire has the power to bring healing, blessings, and divine grace into their lives.


The Blessing of the Holy Fire is a deeply mystical and awe-inspiring tradition that holds a special place in the hearts of Armenians. It symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ and serves as a beacon of hope, light, and spiritual renewal for the Armenian Orthodox community.


Decorating Eggs

One of the most cherished traditions during Armenian Easter is the art of decorating eggs. Known as “pazil,” these beautifully adorned eggs hold deep symbolism and are an integral part of the vibrant Easter celebrations.


Egg decoration has a long history in Armenian culture, dating back centuries. It is believed that eggs symbolize new life, rebirth, and fertility, making them a perfect representation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.


The process of decorating eggs begins by carefully emptying the eggshells, creating a hollow shell that can be preserved and displayed for years to come. Once the eggs are emptied, they are washed and dried before the creative process begins.


Armenian egg decorating techniques are diverse and intricate. Various traditional methods are employed, including the use of wax resist, natural dyes, and hand-painted designs. The designs often incorporate vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and traditional Armenian motifs.


One popular technique is batik, where melted wax is applied to the eggshell using a special tool called a kistka. The wax acts as a resist, preventing the dye from adhering to the covered areas. The egg is then dyed in a vibrant color, and the process is repeated with different colored dyes. Once the final layer of dye is applied, the wax is melted off, revealing the intricate and multi-colored design.


Another technique often used in Armenian egg decoration is the application of natural dyes. Eggs may be boiled with various natural ingredients, such as onion peels, red cabbage, or beetroot, to achieve different hues. The eggs are soaked in the dye bath, resulting in beautiful earthy tones that impart a unique and organic look.


Hand-painted designs are also popular in Armenian egg decorating. Skilled artists use fine brushes and delicate strokes to create intricate patterns, religious symbols, and scenes that reflect Armenian culture and heritage. These hand-painted eggs are true works of art, showcasing the talent and creativity of the Armenian people.


The decorated eggs play a significant role in Armenian Easter celebrations. They are displayed in homes, placed in baskets or vases, and exchanged as gifts among family members and friends. The eggs symbolize new beginnings, blessings, and the hope of a prosperous year ahead.


Armenian egg decoration is not only a creative expression but also a way to connect with the deep traditions and cultural identity of the Armenian people. The artistry and symbolism behind the decorated eggs bring joy and beauty to the Easter festivities, further enriching the celebrations.


Easter Church Services

Easter Church Services hold immense significance in the Armenian Orthodox tradition. The faithful gather in Armenian churches around the country to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and to partake in deeply spiritual and joyous ceremonies.


The Easter Church Services begin on Easter Eve with the Midnight Liturgy, also known as the “First Badarak” or “First Divine Liturgy.” The service takes place in a beautifully adorned church, filled with the aroma of incense and the soft glow of candlelight. The atmosphere is solemn and reverent as worshippers eagerly await the proclamation of Christ’s resurrection.


The service is led by the priest, who wears richly embroidered ceremonial robes and holds a golden cross. The liturgy includes hymns, prayers, scripture readings, and the offering of the Eucharist. As the congregation participates in the prayers and chants, there is a collective sense of devotion and spiritual unity.


The highlight of the Midnight Liturgy is the proclamation of Christ’s resurrection. The priest proclaims, “Krisdos haryav i merelots, orhnyal eh haryavy haroutyun,” meaning “Christ is risen from the dead, blessed is the resurrection of Christ.” These words are met with joyous shouts of “Orhnyal eh haroutyun” (Blessed is the resurrection) from the congregation, as they embrace one another and exchange Easter greetings.


Following the proclamation, the church bells ring out, echoing throughout the surrounding area, announcing the joyous news of Christ’s resurrection to the community. The atmosphere inside the church changes instantly, transitioning from a solemn and sacred ambiance to one of jubilation and celebration.


After the Midnight Liturgy, families return home, carrying the flame from the Holy Fire and lit candles. A traditional Easter meal awaits them, with tables laid out with delicious foods and treats. The meal is typically accompanied by prayers and blessings, giving thanks for the resurrection of Christ and the abundance of life.


Throughout the day, additional church services are held, allowing worshippers to further partake in the Easter celebrations. In these services, hymns of rejoicing and gratitude fill the air, and the fellowship among the faithful deepens.


Easter Church Services in Armenia are not limited to the day of Easter itself. In the days leading up to Easter, additional services and rituals take place. These include the Washing of the Feet ceremony, symbolizing humility and service, and the commemoration of the Last Supper.


The Easter Church Services in Armenia are deeply rooted in tradition and faith. They provide an opportunity for the Armenian Orthodox community to come together, express their devotion, and rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, symbolizing hope, redemption, and new beginnings.


Traditional Armenian Easter Foods

Easter is a time of feasting and indulgence in Armenia, with a variety of delicious traditional foods that are enjoyed during the Easter celebrations. These culinary delights reflect the rich cultural heritage and culinary traditions of the Armenian people.


One iconic dish that takes center stage on the Easter table is “khorovats,” which is Armenian-style grilled meat. Tender cuts of meat, such as lamb, beef, or chicken, are marinated in a flavorful blend of spices and then grilled to perfection over an open flame. The tantalizing aroma of the khorovats fills the air, and the juicy, succulent meat is a true delight for the taste buds.


Another favorite Easter dish is “dolma.” This traditional delicacy consists of grape leaves stuffed with a savory mixture of rice, ground meat, onions, herbs, and spices. The dolma is then gently simmered in a flavorful broth until the rice is cooked and the flavors meld together. The combination of the tender grape leaves and the flavorful filling creates a mouthwatering dish that is enjoyed by all.


“Kufta” is also a popular dish during Armenian Easter. Kufta are meatballs made with a mixture of ground meat, onions, bulgur (cracked wheat), and various spices. These meatballs are often shaped into oblong shapes and then either boiled or grilled. Kufta can be enjoyed on its own or served with a side of yogurt or a rich tomato sauce.


No Armenian Easter feast is complete without “gata,” a sweet bread that is reminiscent of a soft, flaky pastry. Gata is made with a rich dough that is enriched with butter, eggs, and sugar. It is often flavored with fragrant ingredients such as orange blossom water or rose water. The bread is then topped with a decorative pattern before baking, resulting in a golden, aromatic treat that is enjoyed with a cup of tea or coffee.


Easter eggs, which are beautifully decorated as a symbol of new life, are also an integral part of the traditional Armenian Easter foods. These intricately adorned eggs are usually served as part of the Easter table display and are enjoyed after the festive meal.


Other common dishes that grace the Armenian Easter table include “keshkek,” a hearty porridge made of wheat and meat, and “harissa,” a slow-cooked wheat and meat porridge that is traditional to Easter morning meals. Both dishes are comforting and nourishing, reflecting the importance of communal meals and sharing during this festive time.


These traditional Armenian Easter foods not only offer a delightful gastronomic experience but also serve as a way to honor and preserve the culinary heritage of the Armenian people. They bring families and communities together, creating a sense of unity, joy, and abundance during this special holiday.


Easter Monday Water Festival

While Easter Sunday is filled with religious ceremonies and feasting, Easter Monday in Armenia is a day of lighthearted and playful celebration known as the Water Festival. This unique tradition involves dousing each other with water, symbolizing purification, renewal, and the arrival of spring.


Easter Monday Water Festival, also known as “Vardavar,” has its roots in ancient pagan traditions that celebrated the Armenian goddess of water and fertility, Astghik. Over time, the festival merged with Christian beliefs and became associated with the story of Saint Hripsime and the conversion of Armenia to Christianity.


During the Water Festival, people of all ages take to the streets armed with buckets, water guns, and water balloons. The aim of the festival is to sprinkle or splash water on friends, family members, and even strangers passing by. The playful water fights can become quite vigorous, with laughter and screams filling the air.


Communities come together in parks and public squares, where water stands are set up, offering a steady supply of water for the festivities. People gather around these water stations, joyfully soaking one another, celebrating the arrival of warmer weather and the rebirth of nature.


The Water Festival is not only a time for playfulness but also an opportunity for forgiveness and reconciliation. It is common for individuals to approach each other and ask for forgiveness, embracing each other before dousing each other with water. It is a meaningful way to let go of past grievances and start anew.


Children particularly enjoy the Water Festival as they roam the streets with water guns, hoses, and buckets, gleefully joining in the water fights. It is a day of uninhibited fun and laughter, bringing smiles to the faces of both young and old.


The Water Festival is not limited to the cities and towns of Armenia; it can also be observed in Armenian communities around the world. These communities carry the traditions of Vardavar, ensuring that the festival’s joyful and playful spirit continues to thrive and bring people together.


Participating in the Easter Monday Water Festival is a delightful and refreshing way to celebrate the Easter season in Armenia. It serves as a reminder of the joy and spontaneity that accompanies the arrival of spring, bringing a sense of unity, renewal, and pure enjoyment.



Celebrating Easter in Armenia is a truly remarkable experience that encompasses a deep sense of spirituality, rich cultural traditions, and joyful gatherings. The history and traditions of Easter in Armenia are intertwined with the country’s Christian heritage and the enduring faith of its people.


From the Blessing of the Holy Fire to the intricate art of egg decorating, each ritual and tradition holds a special significance in Armenian Easter celebrations. The Easter Church Services bring the community together in profound moments of devotion and celebration, while the feasts showcase the culinary delights and hospitality of the Armenian culture.


The Water Festival on Easter Monday adds a playful and refreshing twist to the festivities, allowing people to let loose, engage in water fights, and embrace the arrival of spring with laughter and joy.


Armenia’s unique blend of spirituality, traditions, and cultural heritage make Easter in Armenia a truly immersive and enriching experience. The resilience and devotion of the Armenian people shine through as they celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and embrace the messages of hope, renewal, and new beginnings.


Whether it’s witnessing the Blessing of the Holy Fire, indulging in traditional Armenian Easter foods, or joining in the lighthearted Water Festival, celebrating Easter in Armenia is an opportunity to immerse oneself in the vibrant traditions and experiences that make this holiday truly special.


As you participate in Easter festivities in Armenia, you will not only witness the richness of Armenian culture but also feel a sense of connection to the deep spiritual roots that have shaped the nation’s history and identity. Easter in Armenia is a time of profound reflection, celebration, and unity that beautifully showcases the faith, traditions, and joy of the Armenian people.