Thirsting for a Mate: Tradition and faith meet on St. Sarkis Day

Saint Sarkis’s Day: The Unsurpassable Power of Love
Tonight (February 6) young Armenians who follow tradition (or who just play along), will eat a salty cookie and hope the result will be a glimpse of their future betrothed.

The Feast of St. Sarkis comes Saturday and with it the tradition that young people who go to bed after eating a specially-prepared salty cookie (and no water) given at twilight, will see their future mate in a dream.

In the holiday calendar of the Armenian Apostolic Church the Feast of St. Sarkis is classified as a movable feast – it has a moving range of 35 days. It comes with the blessing of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, who proclaims the day for youth.

On that day a mass devoted to the saint will be served in all the churches named after him. The night devoted to the holiday is particularly lively. Many young people, among whom a large number are girls, will go to sleep thirsty and hope their future spouse will give them water in their dream.

“I am going to eat the salty cookie this year as I did in previous years and I expect to have a dream with my future spouse,” says Tatevik Mirzoyan, 22, student of Theatrical Institute. “My sister did so; she ate the cookie and saw a man in her dream who offered water to her. The same year she got married to the man she saw in her dream.”

Many youth are attracted to the tradition year by year and it has become a lively celebration. (The closest equivalent by secular standards is Valentine’s Day – a western tradition that has lately become popular here, too.) In actuality St. Sarkis’ holiday means more to the Armenian Apostolic Church.

St. Sarkis was a historical personality and there is even evidence that Mesrop Mashtots brought the saint’s relics to Armenia and kept them in the village of Ushi of Aragatsotn province. Another relic is kept in Gougark.

Among Armenians’ most beloved saints, St. Sarkis (4th century) was believed to be a miracle worker whose army of 40 defeated an enemy of 10,000. The legend says that when all his soldiers were killed because of a plot, he was rescued with the help of God, there was a big storm and he was able to escape on horseback).

Other nations also celebrate such kind of holiday, for instance, Kurds call it “Khdr Nabi,” Assyrians call it “Mar Sargis.”

In some regions of Armenia the salty cookies are made by widows, but in the capital young people mostly buy them at churches.

This Saturday festive events will be held in churchyards across Armenia and will include national games and the participation of choirs, dance ensembles, and horsemen symbolizing St. Sarkis. Araratian Patriarchal Diocese and Boghossian Parks have also arranged a festival at – appropriately – the new Lovers’ Park in Yerevan.