Today is Vartavar in Armenia. It’s the pagan holiday which celebrates the goddess of beauty and water, Astghik. The original legend tells of people showering the goddess with roses. Today they use water, for unknown reasons. And they’ve also turned it into a Christian celebration – it is 98 days after Easter. The idea is that you go around splashing everyone or squirting them and everyone has a great time. In practice, though, it’s an excuse for horny teenagers to run around and dump buckets of water on busty young women. Kind of like a religiously sanctioned, country-wide wet t-shirt contest. Maybe that’s too harsh an assessment, but based on observations that’s what it seems to have become.
As I was sitting at the Cafe Central in Yerevan (they roast and grind their own coffee, by the way!) I watched the chaos. As the gangs of kids were running around splashing women, I noticed that some women were accosted and others weren’t. So I came up with some rules for staying dry on Vartavar.
- Walk with a man, child or older person. Single young women or groups are more like to be hit.
- Walk confidently. Keep walking, don’t stop and don’t back down. Stopping lets others catch up or surround you and emboldens them.
- Tell them no. Look would-be attackers in the eye and tell them no (or ‘che’ in the local language).
- Be alert. If you’re on the phone or otherwise distracted you are more likely to miss the attack.
- Avoid them. Cross the street when you see them farther down, and avoid places where there are ample supplies of water like fountains. You can duck into a shop if you see them and wait for them to move on or to go after someone else.
- Look for signs. If you see lots of women dripping water coming toward you, or if you see wet patches you may be approaching a danger zone. The gangs tend to stay in the same place.
- Take a taxi and keep your window rolled up.
But even these tips may fail you, so it’s best to be ready.
- Don’t wear or carry things easily damaged by water.
- Bring an umbrella to block some of the water that hits you.
- Wear your bathing suit under your clothes.
Or for an alternate, you can enjoy and take part in the fun. Grab a pail or gun, dress down and enjoy the cool water on a hot day!