YEREVAN. – Hovhannes Ashjian, 47, arrived in Armenia three years ago with his wife and daughter from the Syrian city of Aleppo. Welcoming the New Year in Yerevan for the first time, he faced numerous problems.
Ashjian told Armenian News – NEWS.am correspondent that his family was left without bread from December 31 to January 3, since they didn’t buy it beforehand: the shops were closed on those days, and even if they were open, there was no bread.
According to him, New Year is celebrated differently in Armenia and Syria. “In Syria, we celebrated the New Year only one day, on December 31: we gathered with close relatives and celebrated. And if there were many of us, we celebrated it at a restaurant, having fun till morning. We didn’t visit our relatives, and didn’t eat and drink for several days. It’s the other way round here: [New Year] celebration [here] lasts a week. Only one day – January 1 – was a non-working day for us. On that day we attended the church and took part in a liturgy,” Hovhannes says.
Traditions of the New Year table are, in his words, also very different.
“Everyone always prepared kofta with matsoun (yoghurt) and lamb stuffed with rice instead of the pork here. Here it’s necessary to have a large assortment of drinks, pork and other food. People even go to a pawnshop to have a nice table. It was different there: people put on the table what they had.”
There is also a big difference in terms of expenses,. In Ashjian’s words, in Syria everything also got expensive on New Year Eve. “But regardless of how much the prices went up, we could lay wonderful table, which we can’t do here. It’s very expensive here, especially for us,” he says.
Ashjian heard the word “New Year tree” for the first time in Armenia: in Syria they decorate a “Christmas tree” or “Jesus Tree” not for the holiday but for Christmas.
“We put small statuettes of the Holy Mother, baby Jesus and shepherds near the Christmas Tree, thus getting the picture of the birth of Jesus. Here in Yerevan we try to decorate the [Christmas tree] and celebrate the New Year the same way. We manage to a certain extent,” he says.
Hovhannes is surprised by the fact that in Armenia the New Year is more important than Christmas.