Vardavar: Buckets of Water, Throwing People in Fountains, and the Pagan Goddess of Love
I'm writing this from my hotel room, where I'm getting ready to go to a folk dance show, or, more accurately, trying to dry off from the countless buckets of water that have been poured on me today. Why?
Today is Vardavar, a popular Armenian holiday that celebrates Astghik, the pagan goddess of love, as well as the first harvest. Armenians celebrate it by dumping buckets of water on everybody––kids, parents, grandparents, and tourists alike.
We started our Vardavar celebrations in Republic Square, a huge circular plaza-type area in front of the art museum with a fountain, which is usually used in light shows at night. Today, however, it was a good place to fill up your buckets and, as I soon learned, to push other people in. We filled up our red buckets again and again, using them to get revenge on people who doused us, and drenching anybody who was still dry.
We then took a walk to dry--but not for long. As we reached Swan Lake (an artificial lake in one of the parks) we could see men from the fire department spraying people with a giant hose from the top of their truck. As we got closer, we saw that the lake and its outskirts were packed with people throwing water on each other. People of all ages threw buckets of water on each other and sprayed the general population with Super Soakers. As I was walking around looking for people to douse, I suddenly felt a pair of strong arms pick me up from behind and...throw me in the lake. This was a common occurrence, apparently, and Anahit was the next to go. Swan Lake definitely accounted for most of my getting-thrown-in-water experiences.
After Swan Lake, we went for a more civilized experience of Vardavar in Tumanyan Park (named for the famous Armenian poet Hovhannes Tumanyan). People around the park were playing blind man's bluff and other more traditional games where the loser would get a bucket of water dumped on them. We walked through the park and eventually came to the connected Tumo Park, named for the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies that stands in front of it. In the circular area around the fountain there, a whole Vardavar festival had been organized. There were areas to fill up your water buckets, a picnic area with food, a concert stage, a stand for Armenia's famous Jermuk water, and multiple water slides. We threw lots of water on people, got extremely soaked, and Aram even made a few Armenian friends. Overall, I had an incredibly fun day, and I will definitely be praying to the goddess Astghik from now on.