The article is adapted and translated by Christina Hayrapetyan from the book “Armenian National Holidays” by Hranush Kharatyan-Arakelyan (Yerevan, Armenia 2000).
People call this feast in many different ways: Trndez, Terintes, Doronj*, etc. To trace the etymology of the official name of “Tyarnendaraj” is to recall an event from Jesus Christ’s life; when on the 40th day after his birth Virgin Mary and Joseph took him to the church and Old Simon came to meet him (Tirojn yndaraj – go to meet Our Lord).
The traditional festivities, anyway, have more ancient roots and refer to some fire-worshipping beliefs. It is celebrated on February 13 and the fire which is laid that day plays the symbolic role of the herald of spring. It was believed that this fire would bring weather mildness, land fertility, rich harvest and blessing of spouses. So the celebrations were laced around theses ideas.
The core of this holiday was the fire. In some places the fire was laid only in the courtyard of the church, in other places it was made near everyone’s house. Mostly if there was an engaged couple, the fire was set near the girl’s house, in case of newlyweds at the boy’s courtyard.
In any case the wood for this fire was to be brought by newly engaged or married fellows, who had the honorable right to build the fire, after getting the priest’s blessing. All people in the region were to be together to stoke the fire with new pieces of wood and to call each other “to burn the winter away”.
Then each of them would take some burning part from the main fire home to set their own one. At home there were comparatively lesser people, mainly friends and relatives, who were to circle the fire and jump over it in turns. First the new couple was to jump, then the others. This ceremony was to symbolize the purifying power of the fire.
While the fire was on, women would bring big trays full of aghandz (baked grain), pokhind (baked and milled grain kneaded with honey or fruit syrup), nuts and sweets to treat everyone around the fire. Pokhind was the main sweet dish of the day. The celebrations of that day were flavoured with songs and dances.
*In Western Armenian: Diarentarach