Trndez & Diarnt’arach (or Tiarn’ndaraj)
On February 14, the Armenian Church celebrates the Feast of the Lord’s Presentation to the Temple. Diarnt’arach, or Candlemas as it is known in the West, symbolises the presentation of the 40 day old Christ Child to the Temple in Jerusalem.
In accordance with the Law of Moses, the infant Christ was brought to the Temple by Mary and Joseph and presented to God. A man named Simeon was there, to whom it had been revealed that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord. Simeon held the infant in his arms, blessed God, and said, “Lord, let your servant now depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your Salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all people. A Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the Glory of Your people, Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
The celebration is rooted in Armenian pagan tradition. Originally called Trndez, which meant “a bundle of hay in front of your house,” it was intended as a wish of prosperity to the home and fertility to the land. In ancient Armenia, the holiday was associated with the worship of Vahagn—the god fire, the sun, and of war and courage, and the Armenian counterpart of the Zoroastrian god of victory Verethragna.
The purifying qualities of fire were at the center of pre-Christian Armenian tradition. According to several sources, people believed that the strength of the fire would eradicate the winter’s cold and allow for fertile land and a prosperous harvest. Couples, especially newlyweds, would jump over the Trndez flames for luck, prosperity, and fertility. Even the fire’s ashes were believed to have healing properties as people would use it as an ointment for pain and rub it into their eyelids to improve their eyesight!
Following the Christianisation of Armenia, the Armenian Church decided to adapt the festival rather than to suppress and do away with it completely. In the tradition of the Church, the celebration is officially named “Diarnt’arach” (“coming to meet the Lord”).
In the tradition of the Church, Evening Services (Nakhatonak) are conducted on the night preceding the Feast Day (13th February). At the conclusion of the service, the priest lights a candle from the Holy Altar, and distributes the flame to all present. With great care, the faithful take the lit candles home to their families. The tradition of making a bonfire resembles the Lord’s light and warmth, and it must not be confused with pagan rituals, when fire was idolised and worshipped. According to Grigor Tatevatsi’s interpretation, by jumping over the fire, we show it to be ignoble and low, says priest Ter Adam Makaryan.
The morning of the Feast Day, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated in Armenian Churches throughout the world. The hymn offered during the Liturgy commemorating Diarnt’arach glorifies Simeon’s articulation of “a Light to lighten the Gentiles”. The hymn praising Simeon also lauds the Mystery of the Incarnation.
Many additional customs have been inherited from the past, including the blessing of the four corners of the world in the Andastan Service, the blessing of newlywed couples, as well as offering prayers for the crops and fertility of the fields