Armenians - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. Most rituals in Armenian tradition follow the calendar of the Armenian Christian church, so that, for example, Easter and various saints' days are often celebrated. The new year is celebrated on 1 January in Soviet tradition, and it is customary for people to go visiting from house to house on that day to wish each other luck and success for the new year. At midnight of New Year's Eve, it is common to go to the cemetery to visit and drink a toast to deceased family members. Christmas is celebrated by Armenians on 6 January, which is also the date of Christmas in the Orthodox church. Like other peoples of the Near East, Armenians believe in the evil eye and have various ritual means of diverting it, such as wearing blue clothing or a clove of garlic.

Arts. Education and the arts have traditionally been held in high esteem in Armenian society. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many young men were sent abroad for education and made significant contributions to international education, letters, and business. In the former Soviet Union, Armenians were particularly recognized for their contributions to science and the arts. A Western Armenian literary tradition has flourished in the diaspora, and Armenians have achieved a worldwide reputation for literature and painting. Armenians have been active in the government and politics of many countries of the world. Armenian folk arts notably include metalwork, woodwork, rug weaving, and verbal arts.

Medicine. In the nineteenth century Armenians practiced various healing rituals, but today medical care is primarily of the Soviet type. Exceptions are the treatment of colds or small wounds: the remedy for a sore throat is to take lemon with honey, and yogurt is used as a salve for the treatment of skin wounds.

Death and Afterlife. Armenian funerals generally take place three days after death. Prior to the burial, relatives and close friends gather at the home of the deceased; the men might stand and talk while the women take coffee and pastries together. The body is kept at home until the burial, and the coffin lid is placed upright by the front door of the house as a sign to neighbors that there has been a death in the family. The grave is visited by close friends and relatives on the seventh and fortieth days after death and on the anniversary, as well as at New Year. Until the visit on the fortieth day, male members of the family are prohibited from shaving. Food, alcoholic beverages, and flowers are common offerings for the dead.

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