New Year Celebration in Armenia in Ancient Times and Nowadays: Kaghand, Navasard, New Year
Photo by Armenianhall.com
New Year is considered to be one of the most important and universally celebrated holidays not only for Christians, but also for adherents of other major religions. New Year does not only mean changing the year with a new one; it has also a spiritual meaning. Previously, New Year was celebrated on the 1st of Nisan, March 22, the day of Adam’s creation (like months’ beginning). On this day, people were congratulating and presenting gifts to each other. Thus New Year was traditionally celebrated until the destruction of the Tower of Babel, but after its destruction and separation of languages, patriarchs of 72 nations announced the day of settlement of their nations in other countries as the first day and the month as the first month of the year. And every year on that day, people were congratulating each other saying, “A new day, a new year. As we entered our country that we inherited. “
During its centuries-long history Armenian people has had three new years called Kaghand, Navasard, New Year.
The word “kaghand” derives from the Latin word calendae, which in Armenian means the first day of the new year, according to March 21, the day of the vernal equinox, which is also the symbol of the awakening of nature. The best explanation of the word “kaghand” has given Anania Shirakatsi in his book “Cosmography and the Calendar”; “What is Kaghand and kaghandikos. Kaghand is the beginning of the month and kaghandikos the initial day of the year.”
All provinces had great Kaghand celebrations, festive rites were performed in the temples, which were accompanied by sacrifices to the gods.
Then Armenians started celebrating new year according to the Armenian calendar, on Navasard 1, the day when the founder of the Armenian nation patriarch Hayk defeated Titan Bel. According to the tradition, Armenian patriarch Hayk defeated and killed the tyrant Bel in Dzor province on August 11, thus granting freedom to his dynasty. From that time Armenians began to celebrate the New Year on August 11. It is believed that it happened in 2,492 before Christ.
In ancient times during New Year ceremonies dried fruits were brought from cellars and were hung from the ceiling. In contrast to nowadays abundant tables, previously Armenians were forbidden to put any kind of meat on the table, because Navasard was a day of fasting. Table decoration was considered to be the house bread, baked by housewives, in which a divination coin, called “dovlat”, was put. Bread was divided into 12 parts, and the family member whom the dovlat fell was expected to have a great success in the coming year. The bread was also associated with fertility. The presence of granular dishes, the vivid example of which is the traditional “aghandzn” (roasted wheat and hemp with pop corn, walnut), is also associated with it.
According to the old tradition, the new year’s symbol was not Santa Claus, but Kaghand Pap (Armenian Santa Claus) whoappeared with a big cane and sheepskin-made fur coat.
Kaghand Pap is a figure of maintaining national values and rituals and transmitting them to the coming generations. He was accompanied with elves and aralezs (dog-like creatures, or spirits in Armenian cultural beliefs and in the Armenian mythology, who live in the sky, or on Mount Ararat) whose name were Yera and Ani, Hazaran, Push, Imastun (Wise), Antes (Invisible), Yegheg (Reed), Areg, Aspet (Knight), Chtptik (Talkatie), Parpar, Charmazan. Kaghand Pap didn’t presented gifts to children, but gave New Year’s seven pieces of advice; mutual respect, peace, honesty, wisdom, diligence, humility and contentment.
What refers to the Christmas tree, Armenians used olive branches and with colored threads hung dry fruits and pastries from it. The landlords used to take the olive branches to the church, and after receiving the priest’s blessing brought it back and put in the center of the table.
Currently all Christian nations celebrate the New Year on January 1, a month that marks the birth of Jesus Christ. December means birth. Before the coming of Christ into the world humanity was captivated in hell, because all the people went to hell after death. Being born on that month, Jesus Christ destroyed the hell, emancipated the humanity from eternal death and led them to the Kingdom of Heaven. That is why January has become the beginning of all months for Christians.