Vardavar is one of the feast days of Armenian Apostolic Church. It is dedicated to the Transfiguration of Jesus, which took place on the mount Tabor, as is believed. The Transfiguration of Jesus is described by Synoptic Gospels Matthew (17:1–9), Mark (9:2–8) and Luke (9:28–36). “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus ( Matthew 17:1–9)”.
In accordance with the tradition of Armenian Church Saint Gregory the Illuminator appointed the first day of the first month Navasard of the Armenian calendar (11th of August) as a day of celebration of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Initially it was a pagan tradition, and some of its elements are present in the nowadays celebration. In VI century Catholicos of All Armenians Moses II included Vardavar in the Paschal cycle and assigned it to the seventh Sunday after the Pentecost.
Word “Vardavar” consists of two Armenian words: “vard” (rose) and “var” (bright). In pre-Christian Armenia Vardavar was associated with the love between the goddess Astghik and the god Vahagn.
The goddess Astghik, who was the goddess of water, beauty, love, and fertility, was sowing love in whole Armenia by granting roses and spilling rose water. The god Vahagn was perpetually fighting with Evil and was protecting Astghik’s love.
A legend says that Astghik once got to know that her beloved Vahagn had been wounded. She was in such a hurry wanting to see him that she went to him barefoot. En route she wounded her feet so much that surrounding flowers became red of her blood. The red rose became the symbol of love afterwards.
The feast day was accompanied with dances, songs and acting. People were presenting roses, drenching each other with water, youth in love were setting off pigeons into the sky. In the temple of Astghik pilgrims were laying roses and committing sacrifices. People were bringing food and animals to sacred wellsprings, as Vardavar bore the meaning of fertility. Their burden was then immolated in hope to propitiate the gods.
Today Vardavar is celebrated on the ninety eighth day after Easter, usually between 28th of June and 1st of August, thus meaning that Vardavar is a moveable feast. It is one of the most favorite celebration of saints. Children, the youth and adults enjoy watering each other from bottles, buckets and basically anything that can carry water.
Armenian Church associates Vardavar’s traditions with the Great deluge and Noah’s dove. Besides, it is believed that on Vardavar water has healing power.