New Year Holidays in Yerevan / Photo: Arty Om
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Starting from the month of December, the festive stir takes over the whole city of Yerevan. Streets, squares, shops, entertaining centers – creative and unusual Christmas decorations can be seen all around the city. The holiday mood embraces everyone around. In Armenia, people first celebrate the New Year and then Christmas, which is celebrated on January 6 in accordance with traditions of Armenian Apostolic church. So, if you visit Armenia around New Year and Christmas here are some things we have sorted out for you in order to make your visit more enjoyable – from Christmas bazaars and outdoor ice rinks to entertainment shows and winter parks!
SEE THE MAIN CHRISTMAS TREE OF YEREVAN
Yerevan's main Christmas tree / Photo: Arty Om
There are many Christmas trees installed in Yerevan as part of city's New Year and Christmas decorations – all different, yet beautiful. But the main Christmas tree traditionally stands on the Republic Square in the very heart of Yerevan. And every year, a ceremony of lighting all the Christmas decorations in the city takes place here, accompanied by concert, or other entertaining shows.
EXPLORE THE CHRISTMAS BAZAAR
Christmas Bazaar in Yerevan / Photo: Arty Om
If you're looking for Christmas gifts, then make sure to visit the Christmas bazaar located on the Northern Avenue in the center of Yerevan. A relatively new tradition in the city, the bazaar offers artistic paintings, postcards, jewelry and unusual handmade crafts, as well as food and drinks for people to enjoy a festive atmosphere and embrace the magic of New Year holidays.
MEET DZMER PAP – THE ARMENIAN SANTA
The Armenian Santa Claus, Yerevan / Photo: Arty Om
This year, the municipality of Yerevan prepared a surprise both for locals and for travelers, setting up an Ice City with castles, carousels, and many more. The Ice City is installed on the Freedom square, located just behind the Opera house. Here you can also meet Dzmer Pap (“Grandpa Winter”), the Armenian Santa Claus. The Ice City is open from December 19 to January 13, and Dzmer Pap will welcome every visitor. And starting from December 26, concert shows will be organized every day, so don't miss your chance to hang out with locals and celebrate the New Year holidays.
ENJOY OUTDOOR ICE SKATING
Outdoor ice rink, Yerevan / Photo: Arty Om
Every winter, the Swan Lake, located not far from the Opera house, transforms into a jolly outdoor ice rink, where people of all ages try to learn ice skating. You can either sit on a bench and observe people ice skating and listen to music, or put on the ice skates and have fun yourself. You can rent ice skates on the spot; costs 2000 AMD per hour (~4$; you'll have to leave your ID).
EMBRACE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT AT “WINTER PARK”
Even wanted to meet fabulous creatures and feel the magical spirit of Lapland, the faraway homeland of Santa Claus? Well, you can do at “Winter Park” in Yerevan! Opened on December 17th, the “Winter Park” offers visitor an ice rink, various shows and surprises for children! You can even meet Santa Claus and his reindeer and take a ride with him. And if you like culinary experiments, you may have a chance to bake some sweets with Ms. Claus. The “Winter Park” is located at 1/8 Tbilisi Highway (check directions on Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/zr4yUA2b71S2). Entrance is free, but you may be charged a little for the ride with Santa or baking biscuits with Ms. Claus.
HAVE A FUN RUN IN SANTA COSTUME
Yerevan New Year Run 2016 / Photo: Arty Om
Every year, less than a week before the New Year, the “Yerevan Half Marathon" organizes a charitable New Year run in the center of Yerevan. All participants are provided with Santa costumes and they run for about 5 km. Before the start, the participants enjoy hot tea/coffee accompanied by music and other ceremonies. Since 2015, the “One Armenia” charitable fund launches “Santas Wanted” campaign, which aims at providing Christmas gifts - clothes, stationery, honey – for children from Syrian refugee families who were relocated to Armenia. All the funds collected during the run are directed to this cause.
WITNESS A POMEGRANATE BLESSING CEREMONY
Pomegranate blessing ceremony in Armenia / Photo: Information Service of Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin
Three years ago, a new tradition began in churches of Armenia. On December 31st, right at midnight when the world greets the new year, a beautiful ceremony of pomegranate blessing takes place in Armenian churches along with prayer of thanksgiving. In Armenian tradition, pomegranate symbolized life, blossom and abundance. And according to fathers and teachers of Armenian church, members of the Christian church are as many and different as pomegranate grains but like the pomegranate they all are covered with a solid pomegranate peel being united in one Church. After the blessing ceremony, the pomegranates are distributed to people, but you can also bring your own ones to be blessed and then take it back with you.
CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS WITH ARMENIANS
Christmas eve at Saint Gregory the Illuminator church in Yerevan / Photo: Arty Om
On January 5, in the evening, a very special ceremony takes place in churches all over Armenia - the Candlelight Divine Liturgy. Right after the liturgy, a candle is lit from the altar, and people start to lit their own candles from each other and take them to their homes. It symbolizes the divine light and the blessing of the church. Everywhere in Yerevan and Armenia you will see people taking carefully their lit candles to the homes.
The Armenian church celebrates the Christmas and the Baptism of Jesus together. That's why on January 6, another important liturgy takes place – the Christmastide. Priests bless the water with holy chrism and a cross and then distribute it to the people for the cure of mental and physical disorders. If you want to get some of the blessed water, visit a church away from Yerevan or Etchmiadzin as there are crowds of people lined in front of the altar hoping to acquire a little of blessed water. You may use this holy water during whole year, drinking it drop by drop, mixing with regular water, or wash your face and ill parts of the body.
PLAN YOUR NEW YEAR NIGHT WITH LOCALS
Although Armenians used to spend the New Year night with family and friends at their homes, in recent years more and more people choose to join a New Year party organized in clubs, or bars. Many restaurants, pubs, clubs and bars come up with crazy New Year party ideas, which include DJs, snacks, drinks, etc. If you're thinking about where to celebrate the New Year, just check the venues in Yerevan and choose your favorite. You won't be disappointed since you'll experience a crazy Armenian New Year party with locals.
As an alternative to the bustling of the big city, many people escape to resort towns around Yerevan, such as Dilijan, Jermuk, Tsaghkadzor, Aghveran, to celebrate the New Year in a calm atmosphere.