INTERSECTIONS: St. Sarkis, the Armenian St. Valentine FOR SARKIS ARSLANIAN,MIAMI,LONDON,BRASIL,PANAMA

INTERSECTIONS: St. Sarkis, the Armenian St. Valentine FOR SARKIS ARSLANIAN,MIAMI,LONDON,BRASIL,PANAMA

February 15, 2011
While Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the U.S. and other parts of the world, a very interesting tradition within Armenian circles turns out to be a little more complicated than chocolates, roses and cards. On St. Sarkis Day, women eat a very salty version of a sweet roll and they don’t drink anything.
The saltiness makes them thirsty, of course. The first man to offer them a drink of water is the man they will marry. Another legend, according to an article in the February 2009 edition of The Armenian Reporter, says that on the holiday’s eve girls and boys eat salty cookies right before going to bed in an attempt to find out the identity of their soul mate. “They are not to drink any water, so as to add to their thirst and whoever offers them a glass of water in their dreams, will become their future husband or wife.”
The Armenian Kitchen, a website celebrating the heritage of Armenian food shares a recipe from Nory Locum owner Armand Sahakian’s mother.
The history surrounding St. Sarkis is a long, legendary one. Sarkis was a Greek from Cappadocia and served as a Roman army officer during the reign of Emperor Constantine, but when Constantine died, Christians in the region came under attack and Sarkis fled to Armenia where he was welcomed by King Diran, the grandson of King Drtad or Tiridates, who proclaimed Christianity the state religion of Armenia from Zoroastrianism after St. Gregory the Illuminator (whom he had thrown in the underground dungeon known as Khor Virap on account of his Christian faith) cured his illness.
Even in Armenia, Sarkis and his Christian faith weren’t safe. With a suggestion from Diran, Sarkis fled to Persia to serve in the army of King Shapur, however when the king ordered that Sarkis worship the pagan gods, he refused, prompting the king to eventually kill him and his son.
According to another account, King Shapur ordered 40 young women to kill Sarkis and his soldiers, however only 39 of them obeyed, with the other falling in love with Sarkis and kissing him instead of killing him. Eventually, Mesrob Mashtots, creator of the Armenian alphabet, received his remains and brought them to Armenia, and so the legend of St. Sarkis and the salty halvah was born.
Liana Aghajanian is a multimedia journalist from Los Angeles who writes for print and online publications in addition to running ianyanmag.com, an independent Armenian publication. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times Community News, New America Media, Spot.us, and EurasiaNet among others. Her portfolio can be found at www.lianaaghajanian.com.

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