Armenian Spotlight on Festival and Exhibition

Celebrate Armenia this weekend in Alexandria and the Library of Congress. Photo: FlickrCreativeCommons

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2012 - One of the cultural pleasures available to anyone living in an international city like Washington is its ethnic diversity. Think of just about any people group in the world, and you can find a community of them here. Dine in their restaurants, enjoy their celebratory festivals and learn about their heritage in churches or synagogues, museums and of course, embassies and consulates.

Our recent column about Armenia’s claim to be the first nation on earth to adopt Christianity as its official religion in A.D. 301 raised a lot of interest.

Armenians are a celebratory people despite their difficult heritage of genocide, wars and natural disasters, and this weekend brings DC Metro residents and visitors a grand opportunity to celebrate with the metro Armenian community.

Saturday, June 2nd from 1 to 6 p.m. is the 20th Annual Alexandria Armenian Festival ( in Market Square, Old Town Alexandria. The food and music are enough reasons to go, but there’ll also be entertainment by elegantly costumed folk dancers, singers and storytellers.

Festival sponsors are the Knights of Vartan (a fraternal organization rooted in the Armenian Apostolic Church that works on the betterment of Armenia) and the Alexandria-GyumriSister City Committee. Alexandria and Gyumri, Armenia became sister cities after a devastating 1989 earthquake devastated Gyumri. The committee promotes cross-cultural exchanges and reconstruction/development initiatives. Festival proceeds go to charitable projects in Armenia like medical assistance and maintenance of infrastructure.

Armenian dancers

Armenian dancers

There’s something more to celebrate at the festival this year as Armenians and culture lovers around the world mark the 500th anniversary of the first Armenian printed book, published in Venice in 1512. Museums and libraries around the world, including the Library of Congress (LOC) and the Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA) in Watertown, MA are marking the occasion with exhibits and symposia.

The LOC exhibit that is open through September 26 honors UNESCO’s designation of Yerevan – Armenia’s capital – as its Book Capital of the World, 2012. “To Know Wisdom and Instruction: The Armenian Literary Tradition at the Library of Congress” is available in the South Gallery of the Thomas Jefferson Building or online at

Manuscripts in the LOC exhibit range from 14th and 15th-century gospel books hand-copied by monks, to 19th-century works on palmistry, fire-fighting, cotton production and the first complete Armenian language printed Bible from Amsterdam in 1666. Also on display is a richly illuminated missal copied in 1772 for use by Armenian clergy. A 100-page exhibition catalog is available from the in bookstores nationwide, and at or at 888.692.3557.

The LOC’s Near East Section is a major repository for Armenian language materials.]

Read more of Ruth Hill’s columns about faith travel at Contemporary Christian Travel in the Washington Times Communities.

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Ruth Hill

Ruth Hill writes for magazines and newspapers about the business and pleasures of travel. Read more about her views and news of Christian heritage travel around the world at

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