In The Classroom:

Celebrating ascension

Armenian school students mark Ascension Day with rituals in the classroom.

May 18, 2010|By Michael J. Arvizu

For the students in Chamlian Armenian School teacher Garine Joukadarian’s second-grade class Thursday morning, the first order of business for the day was to break out in song, read a few poems and have their fortunes revealed.

Joukadarian’s students were taking part in Ascension Day celebrations at the school. Celebrated 40 days after Easter in the West and Eastern Christian rite churches, Ascension Day marks the day that, according to scripture, Jesus ascended to heaven in the presence of his apostles following his resurrection.

The in-classroom rituals stem from similar celebrations worshipers would have partaken in after attending church on that day.

Parents, with video cameras at the ready, also attended the performance.

“They have to learn so that they’ll get smarter,” said student Tiffany Tabakian, 8, of the importance of celebrating the day.


Celebrating Ascension Day, Joukadarian said, allows her students to learn more about Armenian culture. And through reciting poems and singing songs, students experience first-hand how Armenians from all over the world celebrate the day, she added.

The celebrations in the classroom, Joukadarian said, also allow parents who may not be familiar with the tradition to participate. Ascension Day celebrations are held every year for the second-graders, she said.

“It’s fun, and it comes during the spring time and close to Mother’s Day, so we celebrate it together,” Joukadarian said.

More importantly, she said, the classroom celebration allows students to present the tradition to their parents.

“It’s definitely part of our culture,” said Chamlian School parent Milene C. Apanian of Glendale, whose son Aram, is enrolled at the school. “It’s always good to teach kids about our culture and our heritage. We were the first nation to accept Christianity. It is a very important holiday.”

The fortunes act like good luck charms. A fortune, written on a piece of colored paper, is selected at random from a basket. That fortune is then paired up with an item belonging to a student. This pairs the fortune with the student.

It is Tro Hovasapian’s favorite part of the celebration, he said.

At home, Tro’s mother, Lena Hovasapian said, Ascension Day celebrations are similar. The celebration, she said, allows her family to keep old traditions alive.

“Because we are Armenians living in the United States .?.?. we can’t forget what we’ve had before,” Lena Hovasapian said. “For me it’s very important. Yes, we are Americans — we are Armenian-Americans, there is no doubt about that — but we have to keep in mind that we are Armenians, too.”

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