Happy Halloween: Yerevan joins the US and Europe in celebrating All Hallows Eve

Happy Halloween: Yerevan joins the US and Europe in celebrating All Hallows Eve

At least twice a year, in autumn and winter, а cultural-ethnic debate starts in Yerevan, (and in the recent couple of years the debate moved to Facebook) on whether it is appropriate for Armenia, a country with centuries-long history and an impressive cultural heritage to celebrate foreign holidays. Halloween (October 31) and St. Valentine’s Day (February 14) are the top criticized and debated holidays.

And if with each year, more and more youth in Armenia prefer to get their blessing from St.Sargis rather that from St. Valentine, in Halloween’s case it is not as simple. More and more pumpkins each year go for Jack-o-lanterns, rather than on Ghapama (a traditional Armenian meal made of pumpkin) and more youth are dressing in costumes of the holiday.

“Why do Americans not celebrate Trndez, but Armenia celebrates Halloween?” asks the rhetoric question one of the Facebook’s users these days. “Because unfortunately Armenia has always been tending to be ‘foreign’ oriented,” sadly respond another.“That’s why the county always suffered”, concludes the other.

Let me disagree with such statements. Armenia does not mark foreign holidays and it is not xenophobic.

Does Armenia ever mark the Spanish tomato fight holiday, Tomatina, when participants throw ripe tomatoes in each other? Have we ever celebrated the Rolling Cheese festival, like in Great Britain, when a 10 pound cheese wheel is rolled downhill and participants dash after it? And what about Russia’s Ivan Kupala holiday? (Midsummer night) Russians, for example make great fun of it.

In that day of Slavonic holidays, one can swim in any pond completely nude. The mass swimming is accompanied with a variety of rituals which includes picking flowers, wreath braiding, making and burning effigies, fortune telling, witchery and other night-related traditions.

But Armenia never ever celebrated any of these holidays (despite the abundance of cheese and tomatoes and enough hills for many days of cheese rolling).Not a single group of youth has ever tried to do at least a flash mob on Kupala’s day. Do you think it is only because of the nude performance?

No, simply Armenia does not mark foreign holidays. Vice versa, its homogeneity and negation of any kind of diversity is almost a historical phenomenon. (Yet few would like to be assaulted by tomatoes, or to break leg while chasing cheese, or to swim at night).

With the exception perhaps of the Halloween

Halloween is different. Neither tomato, nor cheese. No competition, no fight, no nudity. And finally, no feast! What kind of holiday is this?

Halloween is non-alternative. It’s like a one horse race. You can argue, but there is no holiday in Armenia, which includes dressing in costume. (To note, St. Valentine has ceded in Armenia because it met a worthy rival there in the person of St. Sargis)

Yet many wish to be a super hero, or elf. Or Hulk. Or a fairy. Welcome to Halloween.

Despite the critics in its “sinister” nature and accusation in promoting the death cult, Halloween is getting popularity in Armenia with each year.

The billion dollar industry reached Yerevan, yet with relatively small variety of horrible masks and costumes, offered by the markets and with the numerous clubs in the city, organizing parties and choosing winners for the best costume.

And this year my friends, parents of my son’s classmates, decided to mark Halloween with our kids in one of the cafes.

“What’s an outrage!” I imagine the wave of critics.

But let me say something.

First of all, Halloween for Armenian kids is not an American holiday. Nor is it European, nor of Celtic origin. It does not have nationality at all. Halloween for children is about making fun, not politics.

When else would parents would allow a child to draw a spider web on his face or, to put on Jolly Roger stickers, in addition to this pleasure of being given sweets. Well, actually, once a year, at the birthday party.

Not only children, but their parents as well, want sometimes to play pranks, and put on costumes that dares you to be different. Like me, for example. Yesterday I got to be a “pirate”. But if on an ordinary I go out in public in my pirate hat and patch eye, well . . .

My 6-year old, Victor, is obsessed with pirates. To please him I bought pirate hats for us.

We both were dressed like pirates for our Halloween party in X-planet café in Yerevan. Well, we did not look as proper pirates. In truth we didn’t even look like properly disguised pirates, but still we had a great fun. There were other kids and their moms, dressed as pirates. Seems people in our landlocked country have a special passion for sea related disguise.

And let no one to be upset with the etiology of Halloween. It is “All Saints Eve”. And one day a year, can’t we all be “saints”. Or pirates?