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Barekendan – an Armenian festival

A church festival celebrated in masks and accompanied by song and dance

Masks, folk songs, dances, and most importantly, a joyful atmosphere – all can be found at the Barekendan festival which is enjoyed by both religious and not so religious citizens alike. The Armenian festival is celebrated at the beginning of spring.

Each year, the Armenian Apostolic Church announces the exact date on which it should be celebrated. The only thing that remains unchanged is that it is always celebrated the day before the beginning of Lent (a period of fasting). Therefore people traditionally not only have fun at the festival, but also lay tables heaped with food in preparation for the long, 48-day fast.

The Church explains that Barekendan is a reminder of happiness, of heavenly life; a reminder that Adam and Eve were cast out of eden after having eaten the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Life. By celebrating this holiday people take a step towards a more virtuous life, a step away from sorrow and grief towards joy, and from evil to good. Every believer starts the fast with repentance.

In the past, people used to wear evil masks at the festival in order to scare off evil. Nowadays the masks are less scary, though some still look terrifying.

The Ararat Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church usually stands as the key festival organizer, and young people in masks usually march along the city center to Liberty Square accompanied by songs from St. Sarkis Church [Ararat Diocese Cathedral].

However, Barekendan is not only celebrated in Yerevan but in other places as well.

Theatrical performances, games, competitions, trade fairs – everything necessary to create a festive atmosphere.

 In the organizers’ opinion, it helps keep the tradition.
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