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Day Of The Dead: The Armenian Way

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  • Day Of The Dead: The Armenian Way


    On Faith aithbook/2008/03/day_of_the_dead_the_armenian_w_1. html
    March 31 2008

    Easter has come and passed. Now what?

    Well, for us Armenian Orthodox Christians, the Monday after any
    major feast day - Easter, being the most significant of them all -
    is a kind of 'Day of the Dead' as celebrated in some Latin American
    cultures, though without the painted skulls and all-night camping out,
    etc. The term we use for it is "Merelotz."

    It is a day when families all get together to visit the graves of
    their dead, and priests will pray over the deceased. In olden times,
    people would flock to the cemeteries in the thousands, priests and
    deacons sought after without mercy, an all-day event. In Armenia,
    and some other eastern countries where the Armenian Diaspora is large,
    this is still largely upheld. But the U.S. is one of those countries,
    where, for convenience sake, it is no longer celebrated on Monday
    but the Sunday following (thus, we remembered Merelotz today), and
    a Requiem Service replaces the grave visits.

    Why am I reflecting upon this? Well, a number of reasons. We are in
    the wake of celebrating Easter, and the message of the resurrection is
    quite fitting here I thought. But also because I am a traditionalist,
    and am always disappointed to see tradition - in this case religious
    tradition - modified. But I suppose, that is how the Church has
    survived all these years - through adaptation.

    Despite my zest for maintaining tradition (much like the theme
    of Fiddler on the Roof, an all-time favorite of mine, as well as a
    cornerstone of my childhood), I have to admit that I myself have never
    been to the cemetery on Merelotz. But this is because I have no family
    members buried in this country. My roots in this country only extend
    back to my parents who emigrated to the U.S. So I've never really
    had the experience of visiting the grave of a family member in this
    sense. While I don't look forward to the day that I will have this
    experience, I realized today how much more completely my life will
    come full circle. As much as I am conscious of death and dying, I've
    never felt my own personal loss, the loss of my own flesh and blood.

    I think our day of Merelotz is a beautiful commemorative act,
    and I wish more Armenians remained faithful to the tradition in
    its original form, because I do think such acts really contribute
    to healing. Imagine going into a cemetery and it being flooded with
    people and clergy, of the air being saturated with the sound of prayers
    being recited and hymns being sung? Consolatory, no? If not that,
    then at least what a reminder it must serve of the universality of
    the human experience! In a world of 6 billion plus people, it can
    still be often quite lonely, so sometimes a little reminder such as
    this can be inspiration and consolation enough for us in our lives.

    Ani Nalbandian is a junior at the College of the Holy Cross in
    Worcester, Mass. She studies history and is enrolled in the premedical