Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Milwaukee Armenian Fest

By David Luhrssen


On July 22, St. John the Baptist Armenian Church in Greenfield, WI, held Milwaukee’s annual Armenian Fest. The festival has grown in recent years from its origins as a church-family picnic into a regionally recognized event that draws attention from the local news media and has gained a large non-Armenian audience.

The lack of leftover food from this year’s Armenian Fest is an indicator that 2018 was the event’s most successful year to date.

Armenian Fest’s main attraction remains the food. The offerings are almost entirely homemade from old family recipes and include pilaf, boreg, sarma, yalanjee, hummus and desserts such as paklava and borma as well as beef and chicken shish-kabobs grilled over an open fire. But the festival also kept the crowd engaged with live music by Chicago’s Hye Vibes, Racine’s Stepan Froonjian and performances by Chicago’s  Hamazkayin Sardarabad Dancers. Armenian wine, beer, preserves and honey were sold along with books, CDs and t-shirts.

Armenian Fest has become the Milwaukee Armenian community’s opportunity to give southeastern Wisconsin a taste of Armenian food, culture and hospitality.

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Dawn Anahid MacKeen on ‘The Hundred-Year Walk’ at Milwaukee-Armenian Cultural Event

By David Luhrssen


(Greenfield, Wis.) Dawn Anahid MacKeen grew up hearing her mother’s stories about her grandfather, Stepan Miskjian, a Genocide survivor who immigrated to America. “As a child, I was repulsed by some of those stories,” she said, speaking at St. John the Baptist Armenian Church at a Sept. 17 event ahead of Armenian Cultural Month in October.


If sometimes repulsed, she was always curious. “’It’s all in here!’ my mother said, pointing to a pair of small booklets, in Armenian, published by my grandfather in the 1960s.” This led to the discovery of a cache of his notebooks, meticulously penned in grandfather’s careful handwriting, setting down his life from before and through the Genocide.


Grandfather’s writings became the basis for MacKeen’s book, The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey. Called a “must read” by the New York Post, The Hundred-Year Walk reframes his memoirs and recounts her own journey to Turkey and Syria in 2007. She retraced his steps from his hometown in Adabazar (now Adapazari), east of Istanbul, to the Syrian city of Raqqua on the Euphrates River. Having escaped his death march through the Syrian desert, he was given sanctuary by a Bedouin leader, Sheik Hammud al-Aekleh, who sympathized with the plight of the Armenians.


Like her grandfather, MacKeen has a gift for reporting. An award-winning investigative journalist, her work appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and Smart Money. She put her career on hold to write The Hundred-Year Walk, expecting to devote two years to the undertaking. In the end, the project required 10 years to complete. She devoured published and unpublished accounts of the Genocide and traveled to Armenian libraries in Paris and Vienna. Her journey to the Near East occurred at a time, not so long ago, when Turkey sometimes seemed on the verge of opening up to the world and Syria was a stable nation. Many of the places she visited, including the Genocide Memorial at Deir Zor, have since been destroyed.


MacKeen’s greatest joy was in locating the descendants of the sheikh who protected her grandfather. “Raqqa later became the capital for ISIS, but then, it was a harmonious place of many religions and ethnicities,” she said. “I received great hospitality and couldn’t help but think of the ripple effect of one kind act—because of the sheikh, my family survived.” According to MacKeen, many of the sheikh’s descendants have fled the Syrian civil war and become refugees in Europe.


“My grandfather’s account is an important testimony to a crime against humanity,” she concluded. “His words are my family’s heirloom. I inherited his story along with the responsibility of telling it.”


MacKeen’s talk and the lively questions and answers that followed capped a busy day at St. John. The Exaltation of the Cross, a feast day on the Armenian liturgical calendar, was celebrated by the traditional Blessing of the Four Corners of the World service and the distribution of basil. St. John added a new member to its community with the baptism of Ava Torosian, daughter of Jeff and Jennifer Torosian. A luncheon hosted by family members followed the baptism and gave the visiting speaker a sense for the genuine fellowship found at St. John.

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David Luhrssen at UCLA 


On July 1, Milwaukee Armenian Community member David Luhrssen was the guest speaker at UCLA’s “I Am Armenian” program. A film series marking the centennial of the Genocide, “I Am Armenianfeatures Armenian films and discussion between guests and host Carla Garapedian. Luhrssen was invited on the strength of his recent book, Mamoulian: Life on Stage and Screen, the most complete account of director Rouben Mamoulian’s work in theater and film. The discussion between Luhrssen and Garapedian took place after a screening of Mamoulian’s final film, the Fred Astaire musical Silk Stockings, in the Billy Wilder Theatre at UCLA’s Hammer Museum. 


Luhrssen is the author of several books and is arts editor and film critic for Milwaukee’s weekly newspaper, the Shepherd Express. Garapedian was the anchor for BBC World News and is an award-winning filmmaker best known for her documentary on the band System of a Down, Screamers. 

For a video of their conversation, go to:

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Genocide.

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Armenian Christmas

Why Do Armenians Celebrate Christmas on January 6th?

by Hratch Tchilingirian

“Armenian Christmas,” as it is popularly called, is a culmination of celebrations of events related to Christ’s Incarnation. Theophany or Epiphany (or Astvadz-a-haytnootyoon in Armenian) means “revelation of God,” which is the central theme of the Christmas Season in the Armenian Church. During the “Armenian Christmas” season, the major events that are celebrated are the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem and His Baptism in the River Jordan. The day of this major feast in the Armenian Church is January 6th. A ceremony called “Blessing of Water” is conducted in the Armenian Church to commemorate Christ’s Baptism.

It is frequently asked as to why Armenians do not celebrate Christmas on December 25th with the rest of the world. Obviously, the exact date of Christ’s birth has not been historically established—it is neither recorded in the Gospels. However, historically, all Christian churches celebrated Christ’s birth on January 6th until the fourth century.

According to Roman Catholic sources, the date was changed from January 6th to December 25th in order to override a pagan feast dedicated to the birth of the Sun which was celebrated on December 25th. At the time Christians used to continue their observance of these pagan festivities. In order to undermine and subdue this pagan practice, the church hierarchy designated December 25th as the official date of Christmas and January 6th as the feast of Epiphany. However, Armenia was not effected by this change for the simple fact that there were no such pagan practices in Armenia, on that date, and the fact that the Armenian Church was not a satellite of the Roman Church. Thus, remaining faithful to the traditions of their forefathers, Armenians have continued to celebrate Christmas on January 6th until today.

In the Holy Land: January 19th

In the Holy Land, the Orthodox churches use the old calendar: Julian Calendar (which has a difference of thirteen days) to determine the date of the religious feasts. Accordingly, the Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 19th (January 6 in Julian Calendar) and the Greek Orthodox celebrate on January 7th (December 25 in Julian Calendar). On the day before Armenian Christmas, January 18th, the Armenian Patriarch together with the clergy and the faithful, travels from Jerusalem to the city of Bethlehem, to the Church of Nativity of Christ, where elaborate and colorful ceremonies take place. Outside, in the large square of the Church of Nativity, the Patriarch and his entourage are greeted by the Mayor of Bethlehem and City officials. A procession led by Armenian scouts and their band, advance the Patriarch into the Church of Nativity, while priests, seminarians and the faithful join in the sing of Armenian hymns. Afterwards, church services and ceremonies are conducted in the Cathedral of Nativity all night long and until the next day, January 19th.

Source: St. Andrew Information Network

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Hijacking Father’s Day …

By Katrina Fernandez

… Every Father’s Days it’s the same. An annual invitation to bash fatherhood.

Can you imagine if Mother’s Day got hijacked to such a degree.

It doesn’t build up motherhood or empower woman to tear down fathers, whether you think they deserve it or not.

Single moms, this Father’s Day lets try a different approach.

1- Don’t be bitter.

Even if you feel your bitterness is justified and caused by circumstances that may have been out of your control you have to stop and consider what message that bitterness is sending to your children, especially if you have sons.

Children internalize everything. When you speak ill of another parent in front of them they perceive it as an insult aimed at them. After all they are their father’s child.

All bitterness begets is man hating feminists out of our daughters and sons who think being a father can be replaced by a mother because their own mothers deemed fatherhood useless.

Bitterness perpetuates the cycle of abandonment.

2- Don’t ignore Father’s Day completely.

It’s OK to talk about it and celebrate Father’s Day whether the father of your child is going to be around or not. Even if you don’t think your child’s father is a good one or deserves an ounce of recognition.

Father’s Day is important because fatherhood and father’s are important. When you ignore the holiday it sends an unspoken message to your children that being a father is unimportant and not worthy of celebration.

Also, ignoring Father’s Day and avoiding the topic of conversation with your children doesn’t mask his absence anymore than ignoring a disease around a person who is ill makes them forget they’re sick.

Your child won’t forget daddy’s not around simply because you’ve elected not to talk about him. In anything, the silence punctuates the void.

Fill that absence with positive remarks about your child’s father. There has to be something you can find good to say. It doesn’t have been detailed. Say he had a nice smile and a jovial sense of humor. Say he was handsome. Whatever. I mean you were attracted to something about him at some time.

I’ve seen this scenario so many times — a woman hurting from abandonment, bitter by her burden, will cut his face out of photos and remove all evidence of his existence from her life. This isn’t a healthy reaction even if you didn’t have children with the man whose memory you hope to wipe from your mind, and it’s certainly not a healthy one to have in front of your kids.

Your child is going to be a constant reminder of that broken relationship, so those feelings need to be dealt with. Also, your child deserves to have some connection to his father. Even a distant, remote connection is better than none. Let them have pictures of their father. Encourage discussion, but also encourage prayer.

Always pray. Teach your child simple prayers early on and encourage them to pray for their fathers; living, dead, or absent.

3- Celebrate Fatherhood.

As there is biological fatherhood, there is also spiritual fatherhood and mentoring. Recognize and celebrate those relationships in your child’s life.

Grandfathers, Uncles, older male role models in the family, male teachers, Scout leaders, coaches, and your parish priest all deserve some recognition if they’ve taken on the role of mentor to your child.

If your child doesn’t have any of these male influences in their life it is imperative you go out right now and work on cultivating them. Especially if you have a son.

You’re just going to have to face the fact that you will not be able to fully teach and illustrate manhood to your sons because you lack that unique male perspective. It’s not admitting defeat or failure to recognize deficiencies in areas of our parenting and then seek outside help.

And just as boys need a male influence, girls too need to learn that not all men leave and that some men are strong and loyal and love the women in their lives.

I know the temptation is great to bash men this time of year because the hurt is so profound. Believe me, I understand completely.

However, part of being a responsible grown up and parent is to learn to deal with life’s hardships. You don’t want your children to grow up believing there is no value in fatherhood, do you? Or to teach them to be chronic victims of their circumstance and perpetuate a generational cycle of abandonment?

Of course not.

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By David Luhrssen


(Greenfield, Wis.) The Mazmanian Family took its audience on a musical world tour with Armenia as the home base. At their Oct. 26 concert at St. John the Baptist Armenian Church in Greenfield, the quartet journeyed across Eastern Europe, to Spain via Cuba, to Ireland and the U.S., but their repertoire’s heart and soul was rooted in the Armenian homeland.

Leading the San Francisco ensemble was violinist Greg Mazmanian, a veteran musician who has performed with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra along with Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Ray Charles. He acted as the evening’s gracious host and humorous icebreaker in brief introductions for each piece on the program, and leading his three grown children through the selections. Ida anchored the quartet on piano with siblings Eddy and Rose joining their father on violin.

The Mazmanian Family

The Mazmanians harmonized virtuosity and entertainment in a program that included Gypsy music, a rendition of the jazz standard “Take Five” as never heard before and an original variation on the familiar melody of “Fiddler on the Roof.” The torrid flamenco rhythms of “Malaguena” by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona provided lively contrast. The Mazmanians responded to an audience request by performing a medley of Irish jigs.

Much of the evening, however, was rooted in Armenian traditional music, especially the melodies collected at the turn of the 20th century by Gomidas Vartabed and transmuted into art songs. After a standing ovation, the Mazmanians concluded their concert with a rousing encore of Aram Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance.”

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