Armenian culture is the term that defines the material and nonmaterial cultural heritage of the Armenian nation: dance, literature, food, architecture, customs and traditions. Each of them has its own unique characteristics which are worth discussing in order to better know the Armenian nation.
The Armenian culture and its various elements (dance, food, and customs) have been changing and transforming for thousands of years. Check this article to know how Armenian culture has changed over the time!
The most special thing about Armenian culture is that it consists of two very different compounds: Armenian culture of the Pagan period, and culture of the Christian Armenia.
The below provided the brief summary of Armenian Culture of the Pagan period as well as Christian Period.
Armenian Culture of Pagan Times
Armenians of pagan period were initially known as nature worshipers. With time, this transformed into worship of national gods, spirits, heroes and legendary monarchs.
There was even a pantheon of Armenian Pagan gods for every sphere of human life, just like in Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome (God of fire, God of water, God of war).
The only difference in Armenian mythology and the above mentioned ones was in the names of those gods. For example, the Greek Zeus is the same Armenian Aramazd, Heracles was the same as Armenian Vahagn, the Roman Aphrodite was Armenian Astghik.
That is why, architecture, arts and culture on the whole were significantly different. The most impressive example is the Temple of Garni, the only “survived” piece of architecture of Pagan Armenian.
Armenian Culture of Christian Period
Armenians are known to the world as the first nation to adopt Christianity as state religion .
Christian religion came to replace not only pagan gods and mythology, but also the architecture, art and customs specific for that period.
New Christian Apostolic churches were built, with different features and characteristics. Almost all pagan temples (except for Garni) were destroyed. Armenian culture passed through various changes and transformations.
You can see this while comparing the customs, even songs and dances of pagan and Christian times.
Armenian national food and cuisine have developed over thousands of years. They are now famous far beyond the country’s borders.
Unique Features of Armenian Food: Ingredients
Armenian cuisine has many outstanding features that distinguish it from that of other countries. The ingredients, use of vegetables, fruits, spices, also, complicated cooking techniques are all main features of Armenian cuisine.
Armenian food ingredients usually include Armenian flat bread (lavash), various types of meat, milk products (yoghurt, cheese), vegetables, fruits, and many other ingredients.
Usage of Vegetables, Fruits and Spices in Armenian Food
Armenian national cuisine is widely known for the usage of vegetables, fruits as well as various spices. Armenian cooks also use a lot of greens and pickled vegetables.
Although Armenians use spices a lot, they usually prefer the freshness of the food and mainly focus on the natural taste of ingredients.
Armenian Food Cooking Techniques
Armenian food preparation, indeed, requires very complicated cooking techniques. Armenians are particularly fond of meat dishes. So, the most difficult dishes usually contain some kind of meat, fish or, sometimes, vegetables.
Most of the above-mentioned ingredients take definitely a lot of time and effort to cook, but the time and efforts spent are surely worth the results!
Most popular Armenian dish #1: Harissa
Harissa is a thick porridge, made of chicken and fiber-rich wheat.
This dish has originated in the Ararat valley.
The cooking process is extremely long and demands efforts. It makes up the essential part of the harissa tradition. Time spent on preparation process is said to be part of the cherished value of this amazing dish!
Most popular Armenian dish #2: Ghapama
Ghapama is a traditional dish, which Armenians usually prepare during a holiday season.
Stuffed pumpkin is what Armenians call “ghapama”. Removing its guts, the cook stuffs it with boiled rice and dried fruits: apple, apricot, plums, chopped almonds, cornel, as well as raisins. Then, he cooks the pumpkin in the oven until golden brown.
Armenians traditionally serve it by pouring honey or milk on ghapama, mixing them with ground cinnamon or sugar.
Most popular Armenian dish #3: Spas (Armenian Yogurt Soup)
Armenians often cook yogurt soup with herbs, flour and eggs and grains, usually wheat. This dish is called “spas”. It is quite a simple dish, thought very creamy and tasty! This soup is traditionally served warm.
Actually, there is no special occasion for cooking this spas. Every Armenian loves it without any special reason! You, too, should definitely try this wonderful ethnic soup!
Most popular Armenian dish #4: Vegetable cutlets
Armenians use a lot of vegetables as ingredients for their dishes. One of the variations of using vegetables is cooking cutlets of these vegetables!
There are zucchini cutlets, corn and cabbage cutlets. These are perfect for vegetarians or people who are just tired of eating meat!
Disclamer: Armenians LOVE meet! Meet is almost everyone, during every big event.
Armenian dance is one of the most notable and inseparable parts of Armenian culture. It is a combination of the Armenian soul and body. People can expressed themselves with a dance during various occasions or even when there is no occasion at all.
Armenian dance characteristics and attributes
Main features of Armenian dance include the national clothes of Armenians (taraz), garments, various ethnic attributes. All of them emphasize the meaning of this or that Armenian dance.
Most popular Armenian dance #1: Kochari
Kochari is an Armenian traditional and, probably, the most popular national dance and it is usually a men and women group dance. Kochari has a very famous tune played on “zurna” and “dhol” (traditional Armenian music instruments).
It is widely spread across Armenia. Almost every one knows this dance,no matter the age. The dance consists of impulsive and slower parts, that come one after another.
Kochari goes back to the pagan culture of Armenia, when Armenians worshiped animals.
Most popular Armenian dance #2: Shalakho
Shalakho is an ancient Armenian dance. Men would initially perform shalakho during various gatherings in order to win a woman’s attention. However, with time women started dancing shalakho as well!
Nowadays, this dance can be performed by one person or a group of dancers, both men and women.
Most popular Armenian dance #3: Berd
Berd (translated as “fortress”) is also an ancient Armenian dance, derived from a historical city of Armenia, Vaspurakan.
Berd is a circle of men standing on the shoulders of one another and rotating. If you have the chance to see this dance, you will notice that the dancers’ shape resembles a fortress.
The dancers wear ”taraz” (Armenian national costume) during the dance!
Armenian national customs
Armenian customs describe the nation’s unique characteristics, distinguish them from other nations of the world. These customs can be felt and seen in any interaction with Armenians in any sphere of life.
Armenian customs #1: Weddings
Armenian weddings are an inseparable part of Armenian culture! Today, Armenian weddings are mostly crowded and noisy gatherings that are too expensive for both the groom’s and the bride’s families!
But the positive thing about Armenian weddings is that one might get totally relaxed by just attending this sort of event.
There is always a lot of dance, song, food and drink during Armenian weddings and, of course, a lot of people you probably won’t even know!
Armenian customs #2: Helpful people
Armenian people are mostly known as hospitable and communicative people and they are usually helpful and supporting in any situation in life!
If you are in Armenia, regardless of your nationality and the language you speak, these people will do their best to understand what you want, where you want to go and will even accompany you to the necessary place!
Armenian customs #3: Attitude towards others
Being quite a traditional nation, Armenians have preserved the value of respecting other people around them.
But there are certain groups of people that get special attention and emphasized respect! Those are elderly people. Armenians always respect the elderly and try not to disappoint them.
Children come next in the list of people getting special love and respected. Older people, parents mostly try not to reject their kids’ demands and needs. This isn’t good, in terms of raising and bringing the children up! But, at the same time, this shows how people care for their children, trying to make everything possible and impossible for them.