According to Dictionary.com, the word “bazaar” means (1.) a marketplace or shopping quarter, especially one in the Middle East (2.) a sale of miscellaneous contributed articles to benefit a charity, cause, organization, etc.
Bazaars have been our church’s major fundraising event and social highlight for as long as I can remember.
Back in the 1950s and '60s, Armenian churches had the BEST bazaars ever. They were always 3-day affairs in the church fellowship hall, with lots of food, live music, dancing, children’s games, laughter and joy. A ton of fun for everyone.
My sister and I would mark the bazaar dates on our calendar, and for weeks in advance would figure out which outfits we would wear on which day. After all, we couldn’t be seen wearing the same thing twice in the same weekend!
Bazaars were hard work, too. The men set up the tables, chairs, booths, grills for cooking kebab, and if required, tents. The women - working, non-working, young and old, would prepare and donate the recipe(s) they made best, then sit behind the tables, selling their wares to the throngs of visitors who clamored to taste their delights.
My Aunt Arpie always donated trays of her homemade boorma. Those who knew would seek out her boorma because her recipe contained more walnuts than anyone else‘s.
Since women made their recipes at home, no two recipes were the same; sizes, shapes & taste varied. Some people felt gypped if the piece of whatever they bought was smaller or didn’t contain as much filling as someone else’s item.
To overcome the food-size/shape discrepancy, church women began preparing the bazaar recipes in the church’s kitchen starting months in advance - weighing dough, shaping items alike, and being more precise with ingredient amounts.
Churches still have their food-related fundraising events, but the word “bazaar” isn’t used as much anymore, depending on the location of the church.
Today they’re mostly called Food Festivals - not much in the way of children’s games, live music, or booths, just a lot people hungry for the main attraction - Armenian Food.
If you are fortunate enough to live in an Armenian-intensive area, you can still find a good, old-fashioned Bazaar. St. Leon in Fair Lawn, NJ had theirs this past weekend. The folks pictured above are from St. Stephen Armenian Church in Watertown, Mass., where they're sticking with tradition in holding this year's "bazaar" Nov. 6 and 7. Sts. Vartanantz, Ridgefield, NJ will have their Bazaar just before Thanksgiving while St. David, Boca Raton, FL will host their Food Festival the first weekend in December.
If you happen to be in the area of an Armenian church, find out when their festival is, be sure to attend, and savor every moment!