Saint Vartan's Day is celebrated on the Thursday of the eighth week before Easter, which falls on February 16 this year. It is celebrated in Armenia to honour the Armenian military leader who led the country's army in the Battle of Avarayr in 451.
Despite the Sasanian Empire's attempts to convert the country's populace to Zoroastrianism, the pivotal battle in which he was martyred was able to secure the right of Armenians to practise Christianity.
Despite its significance, the Feast of Saint Vartan is not a public holiday and remains a normal working day for the majority of the working population.
History of Saint Vartan's Day
Saint Vartan, also known as Vardan Mamikonian, was a descendant of Saint Sahag, according to Armenian tradition. His ancestry can be traced all the way back to Saint Gregory the Illuminator. Despite his family history, he chose not to enter the priesthood and instead became a soldier. He eventually rose to become the head of the Mamikonian clan and earned the King of Persia's respect as the commander-in-chief of all Armenian armies. He was a devout Christian as well as a fierce, disciplined soldier.
Though the Persians initially permitted Armenians to practise Christianity, as Armenians demonstrated increasing zeal for the faith, they began to reconsider. King Yazdegerd II eventually imposed heavy taxes on Armenians and forced them to abandon their faith and convert to Zoroastrianism. This resulted in what became known as the Battle of Avarayr.
The Battle of Avarayr took place on the Avarayr Plain on June 2, 451. The Armenian forces were led by Saint Vartan. Despite the fact that he was martyred during the battle and that the Persian forces won, it was a pyrrhic victory. The battle was remembered as one of the first to defend the Christian faith. Saint Vartan's participation in the battle made him a national hero.
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