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Leaping for Luck and Love

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"This is a view of part of my village," Middleton writes. "It's pn the slopes of Mt. Aragats, the highest mountain in Armenia. We are at about 6,500 feet." | Photo by Erin Middleton
"This is of me and Suzan, one of my seventh-grade students and one of my first friends," Middleton writes. "The Monastery is very famous in Armenia as one of the oldest. Parts of it are 1,200 years old!" | Photo by Courtesy of Erin Middleton

One chilly Saturday afternoon after church, a group of ninth-grade boys showed up at Erin Middleton’s door and told her to hurry up for a chance to jump over burning coals.

It was the first time Middleton (’09, Environmental Education), a teaching assistant in a remote Armenian mountain village from 2010 to 2012, got to celebrate St. Sargis Feast Day. The celebration of lovers and youth falls 63 days before Easter – right around Valentine’s Day.

“After service at the church, (Armenia boasts that it is the first Christian nation - the first nation to adopt Christianity as the national religion) a bonfire is made in the courtyard, street or backyard,” Middleton says.

“Often there is a band consisting of an accordion, drum, and the traditional Armenian flute. There is traditional dancing around the fire and once the fire dies down, the jumping begins.

“To jump over the fire is to wish for health and luck in the coming year. One must jump at least three times to secure health and luck. First to jump are the newlyweds, right over the top of the coals and remaining fire, for good luck in marriage and with having many babies. Next are the more daring teenage boys who coax most everyone else in. Items of clothing from family members who cannot attend are wafted in the smoke to infuse them with health and luck as well.

“I must have jumped over the fire two dozen times, at least, and with nearly each of my students. It’s an exciting and lovely tradition.”