Holy smoke! Armenians take leap of faith

Reading Time: 2 minutes
A young couple take the leap of faith over the bonfire on the feast of the Diarntarach, celebrating Christ’s presentation in the Temple. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Not for the faint of heart is the great Armenian feast of Diarntarach, commemorating the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, as the faithful take turns leaping over a bonfire symbolising Christ as the light of the world.

The Armenian community at Chatswood celebrated Diarntarach on 13 February with Archbishop Haigazoun Najarian presiding at the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Holy Resurrection.

Archbishop Haigazoun Najarian lights the bonfire. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Following Mass, flame taken from the candle on the sanctuary was used to light the outdoor bonfire and all were invited to jump over it, especially newlyweds and engaged couples.

The tradition goes back to pre-Christian times in Armenia, when the people worshipped nature gods, including the god of fire. Today Armenians use the bonfire to symbolise Christ, who was referred to as “a light” by the prophet Simeon during the Presentation in the Temple.

A young boy leaps high in the air over the bonfire. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Jumping over the fire signifies good luck and prosperity and the faithful sing traditional Armenian folk songs as they dance around the fire.

Lucy Amirzaian, 22, from Armenian Church Youth of Australia said leaping over the flames is an “adrenaline rush”.

An Armenian priest does his best to escape the flames. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

“It brings together a sense of community and a way for people to get together and worship and remember Christ and his life story and how he was born for us,” Ms Amirzaian told The Catholic Weekly.

“We do celebrate milestones in his life and this is one of them that we like to focus on. Being dedicated to newlyweds or couples, it marks the beginning of their new life with a blessing under the light of God.”

Armenian youth jump the fire together. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli