Feasting on Easter in Armenia

April 09, 2004

Inside view: A local looks at life
By Julia Hakobyan
ArmeniaNow reporter

After this weekend when the Christian world will celebrate Easter, the
greatest Christian holiday, our friends and my family will mark the end of
Lent by indulging in a feast.

Though gluttony is considered a sin in the Christian religion, this is what
we promised ourselves if we manage to survive the 48 days of fasting.

We arranged the menu of our feast on February 23, when the fasting started.
The menu included barbeque and vodka for men, chocolate cake and wine for
women, and a lot of white salty cheese-the loved and divine ingredient of a
traditional Armenian meal.

The initiators of the meal adventure were of course the females, the wives
of our friends and me.

As Christians we knew that following the rules of Lent not only had
regulations about food, but meant giving up smoking, sex, hard drinks,
gambling — in other words, anything that can distract from fasting . Also
while fasting, people should be tolerant, merciful, in memory of Jesus
Christ who resisted 40 days of Satan’s temptation.

Spirituality aside, what was more important is that we also knew that the
vegetarian food might help us to lose weight. As Armenian women we
apparently have had some problems with weight.

Our arguments such as slender waist and refined souls however did not
inspire our husbands who told us that we were slim enough and there was no
need to fast. I don’t know if they believed so, but the thing was that
Armenian men are badly meat addicted. And they were scared to death of the
idea to survive more than 40 days without meat. Besides, as men they do not
care as much about their weight, though they are not slim at all. And those
few who care are not ready to sacrifice themselves for giving up their

After weeks of negotiations the women’s insistence prevailed over men’s
dissatisfaction. Though none of us were gamblers or drunkard, but are,
though, chain smokers, we agreed to concentrate our fasting mainly on
keeping to a diet.

So, the four married couples, novices to any kind of diet, surrendered to
the revived Christian tradition. My husband ate twice more all the week
before Lent and, just in case, drank and smoked more than usual.

My sister, the veteran of fasting, shared with us the recipes of the fasting
cuisine, and then the culinary abstinence started.

The first week was the most dramatic. Our husbands were blue and depressed
and were complaining that they could not fall asleep because of being

We have been calling each other 10 times a day to update news and to see if
our husbands are alive. Our friend Suren became the first violator on the
first week, (but only once) when he got sick and asked for chicken broth as
a cure.

The most controversial meal was the breakfast. Usually for breakfast we have
sandwich with cheese and ham, or eggs, or pancake with sour cream. We
survived our mornings eating the apricot and peach jam and praising the
Ararat valley and our mums who made the canned fruits in summer.

I was cooking all the day long, making several kinds of salads and vegetable
soup. My husband circled Easter, April 11, with a red marker on the wall
calendar and said that during childhood he never was so inpatient for Santa
Claus as now waiting for Easter.

Then someone advised us to watch the Lenten cuisine show by Shokhakat TV run
by the Diaspora Armenians. We liked the program a lot and learned to make
pancake without eggs and milk, to make dolma without meat and khachapuri
without cheese.

On the third week of fasting my husband confessed that he enjoyed the
spinach soup and stewed vegetables. The next week he said the preserved
foods compensate for cheese and the following week he discovered that if you
have a strong enough imagination, mushroom can taste like meat.

Those of our friends who were not fasting were looking at us like on heroes.
Many of them confess that they wanted to fast too, but they broke the fast
after one day.

Now as only two days remain till Easter, I can say we learned to enjoy our
fasting and now we preparing to celebrate Easter. We have bought dye-stuff
to color eggs and will have on that day the traditional Armenian Easter
dishes: pilaf with raisins, cooked fish and stewed green.

Our friends are happy and alive. We are going to have the Easter course in
the morning on Sunday and then we will go out for a picnic to fulfill our
food promise.

So, if you see that day people uncontrollable and irrepressible eating and
drinking, don’t think they are gluttons. They might be simply fasting
survivors, who, like us are proud we marked the oldest Armenian tradition.

By the way: None of my friends, nor I, lost a single ounce.