Before I begin my column this week–I wanted to tell everyone that my blog (www.Sinikian.blogspot.com) is UP and running. I will try to post more often than I write articles for Asbarez. Here’s a preview of what’s in store in the near future. In addition to covering political and other news in our community–I’m going to do an expose on the anatomy of the average Armenian male in Glendale. I’ve been searching online for photos and notes and a lot of research has gone into this. I’ve looked at more velvet Adidas warm-ups than I know what to do with. It’s going to be interesting and I’ll want your feedback and help. Together–we will tackle a lot of serious issues and maybe a few not so serious one. SO stay tuned.
Now back to the issue at hand.
Growing up in an area that was predominantly non-Armenian–it was always a challenge reconciling our Armenian culture with our non Armenian surroundings. There were the day-in-day-out awkward momen’s like pulling out a "lavash" wrap sandwich with a peeled cucumber from my "Scooby Doo" lunchbox and having Johnny and Suzy stop eating their peanut butter sandwiches and look at me like I was an alien (extraterrestrial and not the illegal kind). Or the time my school was having a bake sale and instead of Betty Crocker carrot cake squares or generic high cholesterol frosting cupcakes–I brought a tray of homemade "pakhlavah" and "gatta" to school.
I remember the feeling of embarassment as I carried the tray of diamond-shaped crushed walnut sweetness into class. Everyone looked at me funny–as usual. And at the end of the day–after my tray sold the fastest from anyone else’s and teachers asked for the recipe from my mom–I was still embarrassed. Why? Because I was young and stupid–and didn’t know better. That’s what kids do. You’d rather eat meatloaf and mashed potato like the Cosby family instead of having "Moujadarah" topped with yogurt or a nice plate of "Garmeer Pilaf." But after moving to Southern California–things are a lot different. I feel comfortable in my own skin. Having matured–I know would throw up at the idea of my own mother–my sweet–dear mother making Hamburger Helper instead of some Kufta with rice and salad. God bless her–she tried to appease us little runts. Her idea of a hamburger was half a pita bread stuffed with salad greens and kufta balls. Not quite the same but it was the best sandwich I’d ever had.
But things are different today. After moving to Glendale–I feel less embarrassed. People know of my culture and it’s somewhat familiar to them. Pakhlavah is no longer something that sounds like a planet of warrior aliens from an episode of "Star Trek" but rather something desired and accepted. Even major grocery stores and places like Costco sell "lavash" wraps in party platters. Every December I’m reminded of my insecurities growing up Armenian in America. Why December? Because of Christmas.
I remember my kindergarten teacher Ms. Crabapple (we’ll call her Ms. Crabapple because I really don’t remember her name and I’m a huge fan of the Simpsons) asking us what everyone was doing for Christmas?
"Nothing," I replied.
"Nothing? Does your family not celebrate Christmas?" Ms. Crabapple inquired with that cautious look on her face. She was probably wondering if she had me pegged wrong and I really WAS Jewish. The week before–she had given me a picture of a Dreidel to color and I asked for the Christmas tree instead. My teacher was confused but conceded.
"We celebrate Christmas. But it’s on January 6. My dad told me that December 25th is for pagans!" I responded with a cherub like smile. (It wasn’t every day that I got to be the teacher OR use the word ‘pagan’)
"January 6th? Hmmm.well–I guess it’s better to celebrate Christmas late than never," retorted Crabapple with a pagan smirk.
"But why is January 6th late? Doesn’t January come BEFORE December?" I asked to the chuckles of my classmates. Needless to say–after that smartass response I dropped three notches on Ms. Crabapple’s list of favorites.
To this day–I still can’t bring myself to accept December 25th as "Christmas." I know some Armenia’s have embraced the 25th as a day of celebration just because it’s a day off from work AND it means lots and lots of sales at shopping malls. But where does that leave us as Armenia’s? What becomes of our culture? Does nearly 2000 years of Christian tradition get swept under the rug because corporate advertising dictates that we buy their junk before December 25th? (I say nearly 2000 years because 1700 is just how long we were Christian on paper. But our people were evangelized by the actual Disciples of Christ and they were running amuck in Armenia long before it became our official religion.)
Screw the Coca Cola polar bears and other corporate "Holiday" symbols. They’re just idols of worship representing the Golden Calf of corporate profits. Let’s not forget that the true meaning of Christmas is the birth of the Lord. Let’s remember that January 6th is when EVERY Christian in the world celebrated this day before the corporate interests in Rome decided to sync the Holy Day with a pagan festival on December 25. Some Roman Senators or clergy who had ties to companies like Coca Colicus or MicroSofticus were probably swayed to change the date so that profits would increase over the critical fourth or IV quarter. Armenia’s are one of the few Christian communities that have kept it real. We have defended the traditions of this Holy Day through all sorts of turmoil. But now–because of Holiday Sales and our comfortable lifestyles and full bellies–we’re willing to sell ourselves to the highest bidder.
Selling out to the highest bidder doesn’t surprise me. After all–we have always been a community of xenophiles. We’re embarrassed of our lavash wraps–our backlavahs and our duduk music unless it’s featured in the movie "Gladiator." Instead–we love foreign music–foreign cars–foreign fashions and foreigners in general. It’s hard to live in between two worlds. But let’s leave Baby Jesus’s birthday alone. Let’s not give in to the pressures of our surroundings. If our ancestors were able to retain their culture and traditions through centuries of massacre and persecution–then we can sure as heck retain ours through a few decades of Mercedes Benzes and Louis Vuittons.
So please don’t be embarassed by who you are. Enjoy your time off from work this weekend and use it to reflect on how you will celebrate the Lord’s birthday on January 6th. My suggestion? Use up one of those sick days you have been hoarding AND try your best not to end up gambling on the Lord’s Birthday in Las Vegas. He remembers things like that.
Until next week–stay classy!
Skeptik Sinikian suggests leaving pakhlavah and Armenian brandy/cognac out for Santa Clause this Holiday Season. If you can’t make pakhlava–some lavash wraps will do as well. If you want recipes for either–email him at or visit his new and updates blog at (www.Sinikian.blogspot.com).