Last weekend, St. Sarkis Armenian Church hosted the 17th Annual ArmeniaFest, a food and cultural celebration of the colorful Eastern European republic. People from all over the area came to help the church members honor their heritage by eating traditional Armenian food, listening to folk music and learning about the importance of maintaining the Armenian culture.
Sara’s Market and Bakery was proud to be a part of this excellent tradition! Our pita bread was featured along with different traditional Armenian foods served at the festival.
Armenians around the world come together in October to celebrate their heritage because it is known to be when, Mesrop Mashtots, a highly regarded theologian, along with Isaacc Sahak (the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church), invented the Armenian 36-letter alphabet in 405 A.D. In fact, it is belived that the first sentence of the Armenian language was, “To know wisdom and gain instruction; to discern the words of understanding…” The alphabet has grown to include three more letters since its creation and lead to the unification of the nation and the church.
Today, there are more than 9 million Armenians around the world. They live in the Republic of Armenia, Iran, Syria, Lebanon Egypt, the United States, and Canada to name just a few. The festival accommodated all of the guests by including both English and Armenian translations.
The main stage of the festival featured a backdrop of one of the many mountain ranges in Armenia. Armenia is completely covered by the Caucasus Mountains. The backdrop also featured trees with bright, pink pomegranates. The pomegranates are important to Armenian culture because in Armenia a pomegranate, “symbolizes fetility and abundance.”
Festival-goers all different ages demonstrated different types of traditional dances throughout the festival. But, nothing compared to the last dance of each night when loud music filled the neighborhood and had the crowd up and moving. The whole crowd was clapping to the beat while they watched the men and women dance complex moves of circles, lines and kicks. Their black dresses with bright colored hats spun around in front of the mountain backdrop, transporting you back to a different time.
The churchyard was filled with big, round tables. Neighbors sat together, talking, laughing and calling out to each other or moving from table to table. After the dances were over, there was a flood of people, including children running back and forth for more lemonade or tahn yogurt drink.
Volunteers served the main dishes, which included everything Armenian from Kufta (a mix of ground beef and lamb) kebab sandwiches to Lahmajoun, which is like a meat pizza.
The most popular dish by far was the lamb. The platter was served with rice and dolmas. But if you missed the festival, don’t worry. The ArmeniaFest website has the recipe for the Armenian Shish Kebab and you can all of the ingredients at Sara’s.
Inside the church, there were different stations showcasing the Armenian culture as well as several different dessert stands. Children lined up to see the delicacies such as baklava, cake pops, brownies, and kahke known as Armenian sweet cookies. There was also a coffee station, where Armenian coffee, known as Chorek was served. The church also held a fundraiser to go towards building a new church. People could buy bricks and it was put on a picture of a new church.
The fundraiser also included a silent auction featuring gift certificates at restaurants like Ali Baba and Afrah, an antique rug circa 1930 from Armenia, or packages from local businesses. The raffle tickets included prizes such as an iPad 2, a Kindle Fire HD, 60-inch plasma TV and a grand prize of $1,000.
The church also had displays on the history of Armenia including beautiful dresses from different eras, trinkets, jewelry and keepsakes.
For those seeking a special gift, there was even an opportunity to buy your very own fig, pomegranate or olive tree.
The festival not only helped local Armenians in the community, it helped introduce new friends to this rich culture.
Next year, make sure to mark your calendars for the ArmeniaFest in October! We are looking forward to being a part of this rich tradition for years to come.