Anahid Melkonian picks trinkets of guests out of the Hampartzoum basket (photo Knarik Arkun)

Hampartzoum Holiday Celebrated by Boston’s Tekeyan Cultural Association

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WATERTOWN — The Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) Boston Chapter marked the traditional Armenian Hampartzoum or Ascension holiday with a luncheon and afternoon program full of poetry, games and song on Sunday, May 5 at the Baikar Building in Watertown.

Many of the Tekeyan Cultural Association Boston Chapter members who prepared the Hampartzoum event, together with five-year-old Anahid Melkonian in front. From left, Rita Balyozian, Jeanine Shememian, Suzy Naroian, Nirva Tomasian, Lucy Maserejian, Knarik Arkun, Maral Der Torossian, Sossy Yogurtian, Aida Yavshayan (photo Aram Arkun)

While the traditional holiday, this year on May 9, commemorates the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven forty days after his resurrection, there are also some folk customs that Armenians would practice, perhaps inherited from pre-Christian times.

From left, Sossy Yogurtian, Anahid Melkonian and Lianna Shememian distribute wreaths to the women present (photo Aram Arkun)

One of these customs is called vijagahan or lottery. In the program at Tekeyan, this was conducted by the very charming five-year-old Anahid Melkonian. Each participant first gave a personal item or nshan (“sign”) which was placed in a pail of water. Anahid pulled out items and for each owner, a poetically written verse or saying was simultaneously read in Armenian indicating the lot of the owner, and afterwards given to the owner.

All women who came to the event were given a crown of flowers to wear. TCA Co-chair Dr. Aida Yavshayan started the afternoon event by introducing the current executive members of her chapter, and musician Gegham Margaryan, who performed several elegant Armenian instrumental pieces on an electric keyboard.

Tekeyan Cultural Association Boston Chapter Co-chair Dr. Aida Yavshayan (photo Knarik Arkun)

Jeanine Shememian introduced a brief program of Armenian songs and poetry performed by two young local girls. The first was tenth-grader Alla Petrosyan from Newton Country Day School, who currently is in Voice Certificate Level 4 at the New England Conservatory of Music and is a member of their Youth Chorale Ensemble as well as the Boston Children’s Chorus. Alla, whose singing has frequently graced Armenian community events, performed three songs, Hayasdan, Mayrig, and Kez Hamar Hayasdan.

Gegham Margaryan performing on the electric keyboard (photo Aram Arkun)

Ten-year-old Karina Sargsyan has only lived in the US for some six months now. A fifth-grade student Lincoln-Eliot Elementary School in Newton, Mass., she also attends Holy Trinity Armenian School in Cambridge. Karina at clearly and emphatically recited Yeghishe Charents’s Yes Im Anoush Hayasdani [I Love Sun-Tasting Word of Armenia] and Hovhannes Shiraz’s Mors srdi hed ashkharhn em chapel [I Measured the World with My Mother’s Heart].

Alla Petrosyan singing (photo Aram Arkun)

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Shememian introduced TCA Boston chapter vice-chair Sargis Gavlakian, a poet who has published several volumes of his Armenian-language works and has been involved in TCA for many decades, both in English and in Armenian. A member also of the Writers Union of Armenia, Sargis first expressed his happiness at seeing the Baikar Building hall full again for cultural activities as it was in the 1990s after the difficulties of the Covid period. He recited several of his poems, including “Voroshum” [Decision]. He also spoke of his concerns about the current conditions in Armenia and how each Armenian was connected to whatever takes place there and cannot remain indifferent, and then recited his poem “Hayrenik” [Homeland], in which he called the homeland an Avarayr (the famous battle of A.D. 451 led by Vartan Mamigonian).

Karina Sargsyan reciting Armenian poetry (photo Aram Arkun)

Ara Naroian, son of TCA Boston Chapter executive member Suzy Naroian, in English gave some explanations about the meaning and tradition of Hampartzoum while dressed in Armenian traditional costume.

Tekeyan Cultural Association Boston Chapter Vice Chair Sargis Gavlakian recites a piece of his poetry (photo Aram Arkun)

At the very end, Anahid Melkonian sang a brief poem, “Mama, Mama, kez sirum em,” dedicated to her mother.

Ara Naroian, in Armenian costume, emphasizes an important point about the traditions associated with Hampartzoum (photo Aram Arkun)

Rice pudding or gatnaboor was offered as a dessert tradition for Hampartzoum day, along with revani, while the main dishes included pilaf with nuts and meat, chicken, and stuffed eggplant. The entire meal was prepared by a team of TCA Boston ladies headed by Rita Balyozian and including Sossy Yogurtian, Maral Der Torossian, Aida Yavshayan and Knarik Arkun.

The TCA Boston Chapter thanks Artin Fine Jewelers (https://www.artinfinejewels.com/) for donating a beautiful sterling silver Armenian cross and pomegranate wristband and Saro and Hilda Hartounian of New Jersey for donating a home purifier, both for the raffle.

The next event organized by the TCA Boston chapter is a celebration of Father’s Day with a barbecue and special program on June 16. Space is limited so please rsvp ahead of time by emailing bostontca@gmail.com or call Sossy at 617 281-1647.

Topics: Hampartzoum
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