For those onlookers on Glenoaks Blvd., the people within the boundaries of St. Leon (Srbots Ghevontiants) Armenian Cathedral appeared to be out of their minds, running around and drenching each other with water. However, Vardavar or Vartavar is a sacred tradition that is unique to our people.
Already an established tradition, the wonderfully organized celebration by the Ladies Society of St. Leon Armenian Cathedral was a huge success.
Although the celebration has its pagan roots, the festive holiday was incorporated into the Church calendar shortly after Armenia’s conversion to Christianity. The fixed date (98 days or 14 weeks following Easter Sunday) of the celebration was adopted by the Armenian Apostolic Church in the year 551 A.D. and has been celebrated on the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ ever since.
St. Gregory of Datev writes that Vardavar precedes its believed pagan origin as the celebration is related to the Great Flood when our ancestors who lived in our lands doused each other with water celebrating their salvation from the flood.
Vardavar celebration is an extension of our identity in the Diaspora. Celebrating the feast on the grounds of the Armenian Church provides us tremendous spiritual strength, equips us mentally and emotionally for the challenges of the world and most importantly, a united celebration strengthens our faith.
Having spent Vadavar in Armenia and witnessing the sheer joy on peoples’ faces on the day of the celebration, I quickly immersed in the fun. I was reminded that it was Vardavar when I walked out of my building early in the morning and my fifth floor neighbors poured a bucketful of cool water on my head. Drenched, I joined my children in dousing people young and old with water.
What captivated me most about the celebration was the fact that no one who got wet was angered or felt hurt. On the contrary, they smiled. It was a collective celebration embraced by all and one day out of the year when children get away with pulling pranks.
To get an idea of how crazy the Vardavar celebration is in Armenia, click here.