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Vardavar 2024: A Splash of History and Joy in Armenia

Vardavar in Yerevan

Every summer in July, a unique and joyous festival brings communities across Armenia together in a celebration that dates back thousands of years. Known as Vardavar, this festival is a beautiful blend of history, tradition, and pure, unadulterated fun. Participants of all ages drench each other with water, creating an atmosphere of laughter, playfulness, and unity.

Vardavar's origins are steeped in Armenia's pre-Christian history. The festival was initially dedicated to Astghik, the ancient Armenian goddess of water, beauty, love, and fertility. According to legend, Astghik would sprinkle roses and water to spread love and fertility across the land. The name "Vardavar" itself is derived from "vard," the Armenian word for rose.

When Armenia adopted Christianity in 301 AD, the festival was integrated into the Christian calendar. Today, it is celebrated 14 weeks after Easter, coinciding with the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ. This melding of pagan and Christian traditions has helped Vardavar endure through the centuries, maintaining its significance and charm.

On the day of Vardavar, Armenians take to the streets armed with buckets, water guns, and any container that can hold water. The goal is simple: get as many people wet as possible. The streets become a playground, where no one is exempt from a good-natured soaking. From young children to elderly adults, everyone participates in the festivities, embracing the chance to cool off in the summer heat and enjoy each other's company.

Water fights break out in towns and villages across the country, and even tourists are welcomed into the fun. It is a common sight to see strangers laughing together, all differences washed away by the unifying power of water. For many, it is a day to forget worries and simply live in the moment.

While the playful aspect of Vardavar is evident, the festival also carries deeper symbolic meanings. Water, essential for life, represents purity, renewal, and the sustenance of nature. By drenching each other in water, participants symbolically cleanse themselves, seeking renewal and the blessings of nature and the divine.

In modern times, Vardavar has also become a symbol of cultural pride and continuity. It is a reminder of Armenia's rich history and the resilience of its traditions. As the world rapidly changes, festivals like Vardavar provide a sense of identity and continuity, connecting generations and fostering a sense of community.

For visitors to Armenia, experiencing Vardavar is a memorable and immersive way to connect with the local culture. The festival typically starts early in the morning and continues until late afternoon. Major cities like Yerevan see large crowds and organized events, but the spirit of Vardavar can be found in every corner of the country.

In preparation for the day, people often fill large barrels and containers with water, setting them up in strategic locations. Parks, squares, and streets become arenas of spontaneous water fights. It's advisable to wear light, quick-drying clothing and to protect any electronics or valuables from getting wet.

Watch The Armenian Report’s video until the end to see how our camera operator Erik gets drenched, along with our camera and equipment. Thanks to a blow dryer, our equipment has been saved…this year. 

Happy Vardavar, everyone!


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