It seems like the last time I wrote you it was New Year’s Eve and there were fireworks going off all over the city that we were viewing from our apartment window. Father Winter comes to visit the children on New Year’s Eve with a few toys while they are sleeping. I haven't heard about any other gifts given except for the children and a few of the high school youth. I think for the rest of Armenian it is food. The women start preparing it a week before New Year’s Day because it takes so much preparation. It has to be already New Year’s Day to put on the New Year Table. The tradition is to make things like dolma, which is either hamburger, chicken or pork mixed with grated carrots, onions and spices wrapped in either grape leaves or cabbage and cooked in a large pot with stewed tomatoes. They are both really good but I think that I like the cabbage one the best. I probably tasted 10 different dolma's last week.
They usually have several different salads, crepes filled with cheese, meat or omelet like eggs rolled up and deep fried, which is one of my favorite things. They have chicken shredded after cooked and mixed with carrots and mayo and then deep fried in a corn meal coating. There is always mixed nuts which are always raw, dried fruit, plates of jerky and sausage, cheese, and lots of bread and lawash. They have plates of homemade desserts that look like they came from a fancy bakery. This is all served with homemade juice that they bottled this summer that you toast the New Year in with. It is all spread out with their best dishes and glasses on a fancy table cloth and fancy napkins in a beautiful holder.
It reminds me a lot of our Thanksgiving except for one little catch. How would you like to have Thanksgiving for one week? It is the biggest holiday time of the year. What happens is that family, friends and neighbors all visit each other and eat some of the food on the New Year’s table during that week. People save up for it all year like we save up to buy Christmas presents only they buy food. All the stores, restaurants, government buildings. schools or closed from New Year’s Eve until January 7th. We ate at several New Year’s tables and the food was wonderful except it was like going to 3 Golden Corrals a day for a week. Some people were very poor and only had nuts, dried food and soda while others had a buffet but they all had something on their table. We went to one home that had 6 children that were very poor. I am sure the children were told not to eat the food on the table as it was for the visitors that stop by.
On the 6th of January, they celebrate the birth of the Savior as that is Christmas Day. Many people goes to church the day before to get candles, light them and bring them home. That represents them bringing the light of Christ into their homes for Christmas the next day. It is beautiful to see all these lite candles going down the street at night. At our branch in Vandazor, they had a Christmas program on Christmas day. The branch president talked first and mentioned because we had visitors he wanted to let them know that although people call us Mormons that the real name of the church is after Jesus Christ and that Mormon was just a prophet. He talked a lot about the Savior as did the other speakers. They then had a nativity skit with the children in the branch. My favorite part was when they have 5 little ones under 4 years of age come in pretending to be sheep. We watched the church video of the birth of the Savior and had lunchmeat and cheese on a big hunk of bread sandwiches and cream soda.
Everyone was quiet and reverent as they honor the birth of the Savior. We even had a little snow for Christmas. I was surprised with the difference between the New Year’s program of dancing, singing, Father Winter, and celebrating and the quiet reverence of the Christmas celebration of the birth of the Savior. I also liked how the whole town shuts down and everyone focus was on being together with family and loved ones for a week except for the cabs and mar/shoot/knees that had to get people from house to house. How often in your life do you get to have two Christmas seasons back to back?