One of the most disturbing and weird Armenian rituals in the eyes of my western friends is the Red Apple tradition practiced in Armenia to this day among some conservative families. Yes, as an ancient nation we have some old ass stuff going on in our culture. While most of our traditions are beautiful and harmless, some are quite questionable and even bizarre for a foreigner. And this is one of those. Red Apple or else called Karmir Khndzor (in Armenian) tradition in Armenia is probably one of our weirdest and oldest traditions. Let’s explore it together!
The Red Apple tradition is a ritual in Armenia that aims to confirm a woman’s virginity on the wedding night. This practice is assumed to verify the bride’s virginity, which is seen as a proxy for her dignity. The groom’s mother checks it by scrutinizing the bedsheet to find blood spots.
In this post, you will find more about the Red Apple Armenian tradition and whether it is still practiced to this day. Of course, we will also talk a lot more about whether Armenians wait till marriage and what virginity really means to us. Also, in case you got interested in Armenia’s culture and find it interesting, I have good news for you! I prepared a post that includes 8 Facts about the Armenian culture you didn’t know. So, consider checking it out as well!
As always, I will obviously enjoy reading your thoughts on the Red Apple tradition as well. So, let’s make a discussion on the topic on Instagram or Twitter with #ArmeniaTravelTips. I encourage active participation as I am really curious to hear your opinions. Looking forward!
What is the Red Apple tradition?
Even though most modern Armenians don’t practice the Red Apple tradition anymore, everybody surely has heard about its existence. When the bride’s virginity is revealed by finding bloodstains on the bed sheets then the main ceremony is performed.
Here is what the ceremony looks like! Several married women from the groom’s relatives prepare a bowl of red apples and take it to the bride’s parents’ house. This visit is a sign to show respect towards the bride’s parents for raising a dignified daughter. In case there is no blood found the bride is supposed to be publicly shamed, judged strictly, and divorce is possible too. Yes, I know, this sounds bizarre in the 21st century!
What’s even more ridiculous is that like in many other patriarchal societies, the strict expectation of virginity is only put on the bride. The groom is not expected to be a virgin, or at least it’s never a real topic.
Is the Red Apple tradition practiced in Armenia?
The Red Apple tradition comes from the ancient past when Armenian girls used to get married at the age of 13-15. But, societies change and the age of getting married has shifted as young people would most likely prefer to create families in their twenties these days.
As you can guess already, this tradition has become more irrelevant nowadays. In 2009, groups of people organized a protest in Armenia on March 8, International Women’s Day. The protest was meant to show their frustration with the Red Apple tradition. You can read about the protest in more detail here.
In order to have a better idea of what it looks like, you can watch the short movie below called “Red Apples.” I like this movie because it seems to portray a quite realistic scenario of a traditionalist mother-in-law and the new bride. It’s not glorifying anything, and it’s not a brutal tragedy either. Simply put, it shows a rare but realistic situation in which an Armenian bride might find herself, especially in rural Armenia.
Do Armenians wait till marriage?
Well, this highly depends on the couple and the family. Luckily, in modern society, the majority of Armenian families do not follow the Red Apple tradition, especially in the more urban areas of the country. So, the need to stay a virgin before marriage really dies out.
It is really up to the couple to decide if they want to wait till marriage or not. Of course, in more underdeveloped and rural areas of Armenia, you might still face people with a very conservative mind. But that is really changing with time. Hopefully, in the near future, the mindset shift will happen faster on a much larger scale. By the way, if you’re curious about the dating culture in Armenia I will suggest you read my separate post on the topic.
Is virginity important in Armenia?
Virginity does not have the same importance in Armenia’s culture as it used to. Some guys still look for a virgin partner but for the most part, the urban part of the population doesn’t consider it a dealbreaker.
Sometimes there is pressure put on the couple by the parents, who are of the older generation. However, in most cases, this preference of the families for a virgin bride is not considered by the groom if he himself is comfortable with the choice of his partner.
That being said, I don’t want to paint it as sunshine and rainbows. Unfortunately, real-life stories where newlywed couples had short marriages because of the absence of bloodstains on the bed sheets do happen.
Final thoughts on the Red Apple Armenian tradition
The Red Apple tradition has a long history, but nowadays it has lost its relevance. Over time this tradition became less publicly celebrated and started to die out for the more educated part of the society. Young people are not really inclined to celebrate it. They like to keep things more private.
If you happen to visit Armenia with your partner you might as well make that trip a romantic one. Do not miss your opportunity to visit some of the most romantic places in Armenia. Definitely, check out the list and at least visit some of them for a memorable experience. Don’t forget to share your thoughts on which ones you like more on Instagram or Twitter with #ArmeniaTravelTips. Can’t wait to read all of those!
Featured image credits: Jill Burrow on Pexels