Armenian Culture and Traditions
The Rich History Behind Armenian Culture and Traditions
Armenia - rich with culture and traditions preserved for centuries. While some traditions date back thousands of years, like its people, they have evolved to befit the modern age and are still celebrated today. The culture of Armenia encompasses many elements that are based on the geography, language, faith, literature, architecture, dance, and music of the people.
Armenia is a land rich with cultural heritage and traditions. While some traditions date back thousands of years, like its people, they have evolved to befit the modern age and are still celebrated today. The culture of Armenia encompasses many elements that are based on the geography, language, faith, literature, architecture, dance, and music of the people.
Christianity in Armenia
Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301 A.D. Christianity was introduced into Armenia much earlier, during the first century (60-68 A.D.) by two of Christ’s disciples Bartholomew and Thaddeus. They came to Armenia from Asorestan and Capadocia. They baptized stately families and common people, and are known as the “First Illuminators of the Armenian World.”
The Armenian language dates to the early period of Indo-European differentiation and dispersion some 5000 years ago, or perhaps as early as 7,800 years ago according to some recent research. Trade and conquest forced the language to change, adding new words into the people's vocabulary. Literature and books written in Armenian appeared by the 4th century. The written language of that time, called classical Armenian or Grabar, remained the Armenian literary language, with various changes, until the 19th century. Meanwhile, spoken Armenian developed independently of the written language. Many dialects appeared when Armenian communities became separated by geography or politics, and not all of these dialects are mutually intelligible. English is a popular language in the business world.
One of the most important parts of Armenian culture is the music, which has brought new forms of music in recent years, while maintaining traditional styles too. This is evidenced by the world-class Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra that performs at the beautifully refurbished Aram Khachaturian Concert Hall in the Yerevan Opera House, where one can also attend a full season of opera. In addition, several chamber ensembles are highly regarded for their musicianship, including the Komitas Quartet, Hover Chamber Choir, National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia and the Serenade Orchestra.
The Armenian dance heritage has been one of the oldest, richest and most varied in the Near East. From the fifth to the third millennia B.C., in the higher regions of Armenia there are rock paintings of scenes of country dancing. These dances were probably accompanied by certain kinds of songs or musical instruments. In the 5th century Moses of Khorene (Movsés Khorenats'i) himself had heard of how the old descendants of Aram (that is Armenians) make mention of these things (epic tales) in the ballads for the lyre and their songs and dances.
Literature began in Armenia around 401 A.D, when Mesrop Mashtots created the Armenian alphabet. This event which took place in the 5th century is considered to be one of the most important turning points of Armenian Literature. The majority of the literary arts were created by Moses of Khorene. Through the years the elements of literature have changed as the stories and myths were passed on through generations.
The National Art Gallery in Yerevan has more than 16,000 works that date back to the Middle Ages, which indicate Armenia's rich tales and stories of the times. It houses paintings by many European masters as well. The Modern Art Museum, the Children’s Picture Gallery, and the Martiros Saryan Museum are only a few of the other noteworthy collections of fine art on display in Yerevan. Moreover, many private galleries are in operation, with many more opening every year, featuring rotating exhibits and sales.
Classical Armenian architecture is divided into four separate periods. The first Armenian churches were built between the 4th and 7th Century, beginning when Armenia converted to Christianity, and ending with the Arab invasion of Armenia. The early churches were mostly simple basilicas, but some with side apses. By the 5th century the typical cupola cone in the center had become widely used. By the 7th century, centrally-planned churches had been built and a more complicated niched buttress and radiating Hrip'simé style had formed. By the time of the Arab invasion, most of what we now know as classical Armenian architecture had formed.
Carpet Weaving in Armenia
Though women historically dominated carpet-weaving in Armenian communities, several prominent carpet-weavers in Karabakh are known to have been men, and in some cases whole families took up the art. The oldest extant Armenian carpet from the region, referred to as Artsakh during the medieval era, is from the village of Banants (near Gandzak) and dates to the early 13th century. The first time that the Armenian word for carpet, gorg, was used in historical sources was in a 1242-1243 Armenian inscription on the wall of the Kaptavan Church in Artsakh.
Lacemaking in Armenia
Like lacis, Armenian needlelace seems to be an obvious descendant of net making. Where lacis adds decorative stitches to a net ground, Armenian needlelace involves making the net itself decorative. There is some archaeological evidence suggesting the use of lace in prehistoric Armenia and the prevalence of pre-Christian symbology in traditional designs would certainly suggest a pre-Christian root for this art form. In contrast to Europe where lace was the preserve of the nobility, in Armenia it decorated everything from traditional headscarves to lingerie. Thus lacemaking was part of many women's lives.
Armenian cuisine is as ancient as the history of Armenia, a combination of different tastes and aromas. The food often has quite a distinct smell. Closely related to eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, various spices, vegetables, fish, and fruits combine to present unique dishes. Armenia is also famous for its wine and brandy. In particular, Armenian cognac is renowned worldwide (winner of several awards), and was considered by the late British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, as his favorite. It has often been referred to as the food of today.
- A very important aspect of the Armenian cuisine is the traditional bread called Lavash. In 2014, "Lavash, the preparation, meaning and appearance of traditional bread as an expression of culture in Armenia" was included in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
- The Armenian soup, Khash, also has its own, unique place in the Armenian cuisine. The name khash originates from the Armenian verb khashél (Armenian: խաշել), which means "to boil." The dish, initially called khashoy, is mentioned by a number of medieval Armenian authors, e.g. Grigor Magistros (11th century), Mkhitar Heratsi (12th century), Yesayi Nchetsi (13th century), etc.
- The pomegranate, with its symbolic association with fertility represents that nation. The apricot is the national fruit. Since Roman times, the apricot was known as Prunus Armeniaca, literally translated as " Armenian Plum". According to encyclopedia.com,"A popular Armenian drink to this day is tan, a mixture of water and soured yogurt".