Vardavar festival in Armenia
“Sorry, the Yerevan free walking tour scheduled in two days is cancelled. We completely forgot about it, but the day after tomorrow, there’s Vardavar!” Huh? What the hell is this? I had planned to visit the city with a local, to find out more about Yerevan and Armenia in general (I often do this when I go in a new city). But two days before, I’m told the free walking tour is cancelled. For something I don’t even know. Vardavar, that must be a big thing, since they cancelled a nice little tour walking around in Yerevan. Vardavar, what is this?
I’m doing a quick research on the internet, and I realize Vardavar is the most popular annual event in Armenia! And what is it about? Pretty simple, spray one another with water in the streets. Not just people you know, anyone in the streets! Armenia becomes a huge playground and that particular day, everybody’s walking with either a water gun (especially little kids), gallon jugs of water, or buckets full of water. And it’s possible to spray anyone with water, you won’t get any problem! The whole country is loosens up that day! Watch the video below (the only black guy you see, yep that’s me!)
Why this thing, Vardavar? This is actually a religious celebration from the pagan times. Noah (from Noah’s ark) found refuge on the Mount Ararat during the flood. Once the flood was over, he asked his sons to spray one another with water, to commemorate the flood. He also asked to throw doves towards the sky. Doing this, they’re also paying their respect to Astghik (the goddess of water, beauty, love and fertility). Therefore, Armenian people spray each other with water, throw doves towards the sky and also rose petals. Vardavar means “Rose festival”.
The tradition made its way and is still here today. Nowadays, every year, 14 weeks after Easter (exactly 98 days), Vardavar is celebrated in the whole country. Therefore Vardavar usually takes place in July, and is very popular in the country, especially among children. It’s an opportunity to have fun outside and to throw water at other people’s faces and get away with it. That day, you really need to watch everywhere . Some people, from their apartment on their balcony, throw full buckets of water to passers-by in the streets.
Some guys in their cars pass by and bombard people with water, kids have a field day and drench each other with water, fire trucks run in town and of course they don’t miss the opportunity to spray the whole city with water… As I said earlier, the whole country is a playground that day! Every single person, from all ages, is attending this special event! The elderly are usually spared because they are respected, except those who spray the other ones.
Being very visible (only black man), I was the main target of almost anyone. I just got out of my hostel, and a woman on her apartment from the 4th floor poured a bucket of water on me. And it kept going all day long. I made a huge mistake, leaving the hostel with my phone. Of course I protected it but still, it almost gave up the ghost… This explains why I don’t have much pictures from that day, it’s pretty much impossible to stay dry and to take pictures.
I went back to the hostel at the end of the day with a lot of injuries. Cut here and there, my nose was bleeding… But honestly, it was worth it! And it wasn’t unpleasant to get water on my body under 37°C (99°F), actually it felt good! Fortunately I was informed (by chance!) two days before of the existence of this big event. Otherwise, I really don’t know how I would have reacted if I had left the hostel, just like everyday, with my camera and my phone, just to get water on my face!
I heard that day that there was another similar big event one week before, but this time, they were throwing paint at each other’s face! I guess they like to be sprayed!