20 March 2009

The origins of "Spring Cleaning"...?

Happy Nowruz, everyone, and a hearty welcome to glorious spring weather!

Nowruz is a holiday that falls on the spring equinox and is associated with the new year in many Persian and Central Asian cultures and ancient religions, including Zoroastrianism, one of several faiths practiced in Armenia's pre-Christian days.

I haven't read about Nowruz in any of my books about Armenia, nor have I heard of it from any of our Armenian friends or coworkers; I just happened to come across the information in the "On This Day" section of Wikipedia's main page today. Apparently, celebrants traditionally prepare for Nowruz a day in advance by Khoune Takouni (literally means 'shaking the house') or 'complete cleaning of the house', followed by visits to the homes of friends, family, and neighbors on the holiday itself. Unlike the modern Armenian New Year, which is celebrated with mandatory gluttony, foods customarily served to guests for Nowruz include fresh and dried fruits, pastries, cookies, nuts, tea, sherbert, and other light fare.

Our upstairs neighbors in our apartment building are Iranian, so I wonder if they'll be celebrating...? They are really nice and have had us over a few times. They have a 4 year-old grandson, Misha (Michael), who is not crazy about sharing his toys with Nathan, but he did stop by our apartment at Christmastime to deliver a gift to him.

If you are interested, you can read more about Nowruz here!


Anonymous said...

As far as I know, Zoroastrianism was not the dominant faith in Pre-Christian Armenia. The dominant faith was the Armenian pagan religion which had parallel deities to the Greeks.

For example, Ar was I think the Zeus equivalent and Anaid was like Aphrodite (later Diana in the Roman pagan religion). In fact, Diana, is Anaid spelled backwards.

Zoroastrianism is a Persian religions and this could be perhaps why "Nowruz" is mostly unknown in Armenia.

Jarred, Angela, and Nathan said...

Thanks for the correction, anonymous reader! I think I must have been erroneously remembering something I read about the ancient religions of Armenia in one of my guidebooks...ah, ok, I just found it on page 133 of the Lonely Planet guide to Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, 3rd Edition: "With invasion routes open in four directions, the early Armenian kings fought intermittent wars against Persia and the Mediterranean powers. Greek and Roman cultures mixed with Persian angel-worship and Zoroastrianism." I also distinctly recall a brief segment on Armenia's Zoroastrian past in the documentary The Armenians, narrated by Olympia Dukakis.

But anyway, you are probably right. After all, the only pre-Christian temple remaining in Armenia is the one at Garni, which is dedicated to the Armenian equivalent of Apollo.

Thanks again...

Anonymous said...

Are your neighbors upstairs Iranian or Armenians from Iran? When I was visiting Armenia 2 years ago I did see a lot of Persians visiting Armenia but i also know that many Armenians are leaving Iran and moving to Armenia.

Jarred, Angela, and Nathan said...

I believe it's the latter -- at least on the wife's side (her husband speaks very little English, so I don't know his story). She says her mother was an Armenian who fled to Iran during the genocide and remained there.

I'm pretty sure their daughter was born in Armenia, and married a Russian...hence little Misha.

By the way, are you a regular reader? You seem to know a good deal about Armenia. Who are you and where are you from? =)

Anonymous said...

I don't think we're the same "Anonymous". :-)

I'm the first one that talked about Zoroastrianism.

Anyway, you are right that Zoroastrianism influenced Armenia in ancient times because the Persian empire was quite strong.

I think it just wasn't the dominant religion.

I am of Armenian decent. I have been reading your blog fairly regularly.

I find it interesting because it gives me a little window into what day to day life is like in Yerevan.

Anonymous said...

I am the Anonymous who posed the question about the Armenians from Iran.. Yes I check out blogs about Americans living in Armenia because it is really interesting to see their reactions in regards to Armenia and her people.

Names Chris and I am an Armenian who was born in Iran who is now American citizen (Southern California)

Keep up the good job with the blog!!!