Grigor Aslanian, Arman Sirounian, Andrea Ogura, Kimberly A. Lastrilla


In our society today, money is not only used as a monetary object but also as a non-monetary object. Through research and interviewing, we have discovered that Armenians practice something called “Michink” or “Micheng” which translates to “mid-Lent.” Very little research has been done on this particular subject. The special day called “Michink” is a celebration during the middle of lent, to encourage people to persevere until the end of lent. During this celebration, women would insert a coin into a pastry and whoever received the slice with the coin would receive good luck. There seemed to be many different aspects to this tradition which are historical, cultural, and monetary. Through in-depth research, interviews, and analysis, many discoveries have been uncovered about this tradition called “Michink.”

301 A.D. was the year that Christianity was established as Armenia’s national religion. Before Christianity, the Armenians had worshiped the sun. During this time, a man named Gregory was going around Armenia preaching Christianity. When King Trdat got word of this, he sentenced Gregory to live the rest of his life in a very deep pit for the charge of blasphemy. While Gregory was in the pit the King became ill and acted out his animalistic instincts and took on the image of a beast. After no cure was found that would heal him, Trdat’s sister finally freed Gregory to try and heal Trdat with his Christian prayers. After praying endlessly for Trdats forgiveness, Gregory was successful in healing the king. After Trdat was cured, he adopted Christianity as the nation’s official religion, and so Armenia became the first country in history to adopt Christianity as its official religion.

Since then, Armenians have been devout Christians who celebrate during Easter and have come up with their unique traditions which they practice during this period. In Armenia and many other countries, they participate in something called Lent or in Armenian “Medz Bahk”. “Medz Bahk” literally translates into “Big Lent” or “Big Abstinence.” This is a period of time that is given to them in order to prepare for the Feast of Easter, and the spiritual reawakening people experience. This period during Lent is forty days long and serves many purposes.

Some of the opportunities that Lent provides is a time to renew people’s commitment to God, reflect on people’s lives, and respond to Jesus’ call for love and mercy toward all of God’s children. These are only some of the things that people try to accomplish during the “Medz Bahk”. During this very special time during the year, Armenians are able to guard themselves against worldly distractions and allow room for the Holy Spirit to fill their bodies.

For many, they will try to gain the strength they desire to work at being more loving, gentle, and humble. They try to accomplish these noble characteristics through prayer, Bible study, and fasting. According to the Armenian Church, “The heart of Lent is inner penitence and reconciliation with God.” As Christians, this period of time is set aside to examine and evaluate one’s life. Many of them will renew their spirits, but only if they are able to repent for their sins and change their life for God.

Another important aspect of “Medz Bahk” is fasting and abstinence. In Armenia they have terms for fasting which is “Dzom,” and abstinence which is “Bahk.” This refers to a person who attempts to stay away from an extravagant and excessive lifestyle, and sensual pleasures. Abstinence requires religious followers to try and avoid consumption of certain food products and culinary delights. Some of these include different types of meat, fats, eggs, alcoholic drinks, and dairy products. Instead of consuming these foods, they will resort to replacing their diets with lots of vegetables and grain. Abstinence is not only for food; it also pertains to material pleasures. Instead of buying things that are unnecessary or being pleasured sensually, they emphasize prayers, a very humble lifestyle, and spiritual values. Many times abstinence or fasting is for a man to be reinforced and renewed by cleansing his soul, and engaging in religious practices and leading a moral way of life.

Fasting is also a very significant part in Lent, and is supposed to strengthen people’s spirituality. Along with refraining from certain food products, people also try to stay away from frivolous entertainment, parties, and movies. The Armenian Church suggests that every faithful Christian can do some of the following in order to stay in the Lenten spirit. The first thing they can do is set aside some time for daily prayer, spiritual readings, and Bible study. It also suggested that people reduce their amount of outside activities, and keep Wednesdays and Fridays open for fast days. Lastly, the Armenian Church suggests that there should be a family effort to integrate these activities into every member’s life during lent.

Finally after three and a half weeks of fasting, all women get together for “Micheng.” This is also known as “mid-Lent,” and is a very special occasion. This celebration happens on the twentieth day of lent and occurs on the Wednesday of the fourth week. This day marks the success of restraint during the first half of lent. Although this is a celebration, it is not a religious feast of any particular significance. The main purpose of “Micheng” is to inspire and encourage persistence, so that these people will continue on through the second half of Lent until the end which is Easter Sunday. Not only is it designed to keep spirits up, but it is also a way to bring people together and give them strength to continue.

Michink has crept into the Armenian culture through years of tradition and practice. The Armenian culture itself is a very vast subject. The Armenian diaspora includes three main types of Armenians: Lebanese, Iranian (Persian), and Armenian Armenians. With the passing of time these three divisions of Armenians have adopted many different types of traditions, but overall their underlying practices are essentially the same. This concept remains true when applied to the tradition of “Michink.” Persian-Armenians, who are the main group of people who are familiar with this custom, are the ones who practice this tradition fervently. Even the language of the Armenians, which is also called Armenian, differs between these three groups.

These differences were brought about when Armenia, as a nation, was fragmented because of the genocide of 1915. After the Turkish government put together a mass genocide which claimed the lives of 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children, the survivors fled to nearby countries to escape persecution. This is where the large division between the Armenian people and their culture began. Many Armenians fled to Iran, and others fled to Lebanon to find refuge from the Turkish military. Others, who lived to see another day, tried to continue their lives in what remained of Armenia. Though this process, at first, was difficult, the Armenians in these countries flourished into very separate but equally prosperous ethnic groups rich with culture and tradition. But along the way new traditions, and variations of practiced traditions became commonplace among these three different groups. The tradition of “Michink” was no different; it spawned modified forms of practices, but in essence the practices were the same and still shared a common heritage.

This can be seen in the different forms that the concept of “Michink” has taken on within the Armenian community. Persian-Armenians who were interviewed said that to them “Michink” is a dessert with a penny hidden somewhere in it, which is prepared on the 20th day of Lent. This tradition is widely practiced in the Persian-Armenian (Iranian-Armenian) community. Almost every Persian-Armenian who was interviewed knew about this practice, and said they prepare it themselves.

But through the use of research and interviews, it became evident that “Michink” itself was not the pastry that was served at Easter. “Michink” as Armenians know it, is defined as “middle.” This “middle” that kept being mentioned by the interviewed subjects, refers to the 20th day of Lent before Easter. This is the time where the Iranian-Armenians have created a tradition where they take a break from the practice of Lent, and on this day the “Michink Gatta” is prepared and served. “Michink Gatta” is the actual name of the pastry which is prepared during the “Michink” ritual, and includes the coin. Iranian-Armenians who were interviewed claimed that the pastry was cut into slices, similar to a pizza, and passed out to whoever was present during the “Michink” dinner. Inside the pastry was a coin hidden somewhere, and whoever got the slice with the coin in it receives good luck, until next year when someone else gets it. A video of the making of the actual Gatta can be found in this link: The end result is the “Michink Gatta” (top: Gatta being prepared; below: end result is Michink Gatta which is on the left):


Through some more detailed research, it was discovered that in the past, when the tradition first began, a gold coin was inserted into the “Michink Gatta” and that the gold coin would be the gift to the person who received the slice with the coin in it. The reason why they used a gold coin was probably because there wasn’t much else, if anything, that was more valuable at the time. Even though they had different currencies back when Michink was originated, such as different types of precious stones, gold was definitely a universal currency that could be used by everyone. For gold to be such an important thing back then, some may wonder why they used it and not something else to put into the Gatta because whoever received the gold coin would keep it as a souvenir and not use it. Gold, being such a valuable thing to many had become a non-monetary object when it came to “Michink.” Religion is such an important part of Armenian lives that not only did they want to use the greatest piece of metal to put in the Gatta, but also show God that they are willing to sacrifice their money and not use it.

Nowadays this tradition has been changed, and depending on the person asked, the individual who gets the coin in the middle now receives either good luck or a present from those people who did not find the coin in their slice of “Michink Gatta.” So through the use of interviews it was discovered that some Persian-Armenians have a practice of gift giving to whoever gets the coin, and others say the coin just brings good luck. Since very little research has been done on this topic, we were not able to find out this aspect of the “Michink Gatta.”

Today in the United States, many Armenians (mainly in Southern California) continue to carry on the tradition of “Michink” on the 20th day of Lent. However, there are a few minor differences, but the meaning of it has not changed at all throughout the centuries. One minor difference in the “Michink” today is the transformation of the gold coin into a nickel or penny. Below are pictures of the coin and it being prepared to be put into the pastry.


The gold coin is very seldom used today and most people, who bake the Gatta, put some type of small coin in it. The reason for this transformation is that gold coins have become rare to our modern day society, and most people who receive gold today would probably either use it or save it for monetary purposes. A penny or five cents is not a big deal to anyone today, and no one would regret saving it for good luck and not being able to spend it. Saving a penny because a person feels will bring luck to them will most likely have greater value to the person rather the penny itself as a monetary object. There is not much a person can get today with a penny if they can get anything at all. However, if the person received the penny from a slice of “Gatta” during “Michink,” they would cherish that penny and the penny would bring them hope, and happiness psychologically, rather than through a monetary exchange.

Another reason why gold coins are not used today and have been replaced with loose change is that “Michink” has become such a communal event, that it is not just mothers baking it and placing the coins in the Gattas themselves. Bakeries in most Armenian communities sell them today with the penny or nickel baked right inside of them ready to be bought, taken home, and served. In Glendale, California, there are probably at least ten different bakeries that sell it because of the huge demand for it from the people in that area. Bakeries would be unable to put gold coins or any other expensive coin in hundreds of Gattas for us to have, because after all, they do need to make some profit off of what they sell. We also would not be able nor would we want to go to a bakery and pay a lot of money for a Gatta that has a gold coin baked inside of it. Using simple pennies and nickels makes it easier on the bakeries as well as the consumers.

During “Michink,” gold coins and money are not the only things that are put into the Gatta and instead it has become a form if gift-giving. Some families bake a button (or something else similar to it) inside the Gatta, and whoever receives the slice with the Gatta not only will have good luck for a year, but they will receive gifts from everyone at the gathering of “Michink”. The monetary use here becomes the buying of the gifts and giving it to the one who collects it, and the button becomes a symbol of the fortunate from getting good luck.

This seemed very interesting because none of the other two types of Armenians practice this tradition in exactly the same way. The Armenians, who have migrated to the US directly from Armenia, do not put a coin in a pastry during Lent; they put it in meatballs called “Kuftes” during an Armenian girl’s wedding. Armenians who stayed in Armenia after the genocide have a practice, where the women from the bride’s side of the family go to the bride’s house on the day of her wedding to help her prepare. During this time “Kuftes” are served to everyone there, and whoever finds the coin in their “Kufte” is said to have received good luck. This tradition is quite similar to one of the Persian-Armenians, but to Armenians from Armenia it is a different tradition altogether. Even though both traditions have a similar underlying concept to it, these two types of Armenians find them to be completely different and separate.

Efforts made to contact Lebanese-Armenians were fruitless, because they seemed to know nothing about the practice of eating “Michink Gatta” during Lent.

Whoever was contacted, though, claimed that the only reason they practiced it was because of the influence of a Persian-Armenian friend or spouse. This seemed interesting because once again traditions are being altered, and new ways of doing them might be spawned through this sharing of traditions and rituals.

Another interesting aspect that was discovered was the large participation that women had in this celebration. Women were known to celebrate “Michink” because they uphold the traditions. They make the extra effort to put into practice the old traditions to help honor the old customs. Since “Michink” falls on a Wednesday, it may be necessary for a man to work to help maintain the family’s financial status. So the women stay at home and prepare for this feast. Some churches also celebrate this feast with their patrons. Potluck dinners are also common for this celebration. The women get together and they help each other get through the fasting of lent.

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