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  • The Armenian Picnic: A Connection to the Old Country

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    An enduring feature of Armenian life, picnics are gatherings where young and old come together to share traditions of food, storytelling, music, and dance, keeping the culture vibrant. Here, Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives is proud to share its photos of picnics in America from 1900 and continuing through the decades.

    Many of these gatherings are formally organized by churches, political organizations, or social clubs, while others are simple gatherings of friends and family. The sound of the oud (lute) or zurna (woodwind), the alluring aroma of barbecuing meat, and the sight of traditional dances all contribute to the familiar ritual.

    The Armenian Apostolic Church follows the centuries-old tradition of blessing the first grapes of the harvest in early August. Each parish has a picnic to prepare a madagh (offering). In larger communities, the summer calendar fills up with other opportunities to come together and eat, dance, and hear the Armenian language and music. Friends and family gather after a long workweek to enjoy each other’s company and share a meal. Often someone brings along an instrument.

    In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, people arriving in the United States from the Ottoman Empire often sought out fellow immigrants from their home provinces. Over time, their descendants developed organizations as a way to keep the connection to their ancestors’ village or province. These summer picnics were an opportunity to share a traditional dish with ancestral neighbors or listen to music with dance steps unique to their homeland. In these photos, you’ll see people from Van, who call themselves Vanetzis; people from Sepastia, or Sepastatsis; people from Kesserig, and people from Kharpert.

    Armenian picnics continue today, teaching new generations traditions still celebrated throughout the Armenian Diaspora.

    Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives has a mission to collect, document, preserve, and present the photographic record of all Armenians. Project SAVE Archives strives to increase knowledge of Armenian culture and heritage by encouraging the use of its extensive collection of photographs, together with its many other resources to the widest possible audience. It aims to contribute back to the community by supporting and collaborating with other historical, cultural, and educational organizations.

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