The Exaltation of the Holy Cross is a public holiday in Armenia.
This holiday is celebrated on the Monday after the Sunday that falls between 11th and 17th of September. On this Sunday, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross commemorates the return of the Holy Cross to Jerusalem following its capture by the Persians.
The public holiday usually compensated by a working day on the following Saturday.
History of Exaltation of the Holy Cross
In the Orthodox and Armenian Churches, it is believed that the Holy Cross used to crucify Jesus had been found at the beginning of the 4th century by St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine I. The Holy Cross was kept in Jerusalem and venerated by Christians.
In 610 the Persian King Khosrov II attacked the Byzantine Empire, and in 614, the Persian army entered Jerusalem. The Persians took the Holy Cross from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Supported by the Armenian army, the Byzantines went after the Holy Cross, retrieving it after defeating Khosorov in battle. The Holy Cross was returned to Jerusalem. On the way to Jerusalem, the Holy Cross was carried aloft to celebrate its recapture. On its journey, it travelled through Karin in Armenia.
In the Armenian Apostolic Church, this day is known as a ‘Merelots’ a Remembrance Day of the Dead that is observed. ‘Merelots are observed on the day after five religious holidays in Armenia. The five Remembrance Days of the Dead are on the days after Christmas, Easter, Feast of the Transfiguration, Assumption of the Holy Virgin Mary and the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
Musa Ler Memorial
Out of the many monuments in Armenia, there are two which are especially important for the Armenian people. One of them is Sardarapat, and the other one is the Memorial of Musa Ler (Musa Mountain). While these monuments might not speak of anything to foreigners, they do mean much for Armenians and those who would love to learn about their significance should take their time and get acquainted with the Armenian history, more specifically with the events that took place in the beginning of the 20th century.
Musa Ler Memorial: General
The memorial is located between capital Yerevan and the Holy See of Ejmiatsin. It is dedicated to the heroic battle of Armenians that took place in 1915.
Musa Ler Memorial: About the Memorial
Located in Musa Ler village the Musa Ler Memorial is dedicated to the defenders and fallen heroes of Musa Ler resistance during 1915 Armenian Genocide. There is also the museum of the memorial. The architect was Rafael Israelyan and the sculptor was Ara Harutyunyan. The memorial is erected on a small hill and is made of red tufa stone.
The construction of the memorial was completed in 1976, and it bears an inscription, which reads “To the heroic self-defense battle of Musa Ler.”
Musa Ler Memorial: About the Battle
On July 13 of 1915 there came an order based on which those living in the villages around the mountain were to be prepared for deportation in eight days. There were basically six villages around the mountain, and the majority of the residents left them and climbed the mountain. They took with them their flocks, food and weapons. The eight days’ time ended on July 21 and having learned about what the local Armenians had done the Turks started their attacks. The early attacks were not successful.
The first self-defense groups were organized on August 3. The first short-term fight with the Turks took place four days later. It was then followed with the heavy fighting of August 19/20. At the end of the fighting the Turks retreated. The Turks’ further plan was to make Armenians starve out. The mountain was besieged. Very soon there was no bread. There was only meat left, but the meat would be enough for another two weeks and not more. So Armenians came up with their own escape plans.
Two flags were made. One of them had a huge red cross on it, and the other came with the following message “Christians in Distress, Rescue.” The message was written in English and was tied to trees, which made it visible from above. Already on the fifty third day of siege French battleship Guichen noted the flags. It was a Sunday morning, September 12. Three days later, on September 15 every single Armenian on the mountain was taken on board of five vessels and was eventually rescued. They were taken to Port Said, Egypt.
To sum up, the atrocities the Ottoman Empire carried out against Armenians from 1896-1923 are never to be forgotten by Armenians. Neither can be forgotten the Armenian Genocide committed in 1915. The Armenian Genocide Memorial and the Genocide Museum will recount much to everyone interested.
Musa Ler Memorial: Battle Celebration
Every year in mid-September commemorative activities are held at the memorial. The celebrations are accompanied by special food called “Harisa.” It’s a national dish made of wheat and lamb or hen. It’s cooked all night and is served in the morning and distributed to everyone.
Notably, only 14 families have the right to cook that dish for the commemoration day. That right is passed from father to son.