The very day of the mid-point of Lent is very special, and it is called in Armenian, “michink,” meaning “middle.”
It is the 24th day of Lent, and it occurs on the Wednesday of the fourth week.
It marks having successfully triumphed over the demands of restraint and continence called for by the long Lenten period of abstinence. It also, in a sense, is regarded as an occasion for celebration.
Though that is all true, it must be pointed out that it is not a religious feast of any significance. Thus, it is only to mark a popularly observed occasion. Morally, it inspires and encourages steadfastness, so that the faithful will continue on through the second half, to its end, on Easter Sunday.
RELIGIOUS SERVICES AT MID-LENT
There are no religious services specifically designated for mid-Lent, since it is not a feast day.
The services for that Wednesday are the same as for other Wednesdays of lent, with the Sunrise Service and the ritual for confession and penance. What occurs then is primarily making the observance a little more ceremonial. Because Michink occurs on Wednesday, a work day, most men will be at work.
Also, because of the social and economic pressures Armenians experienced in the Diaspora, being different from what they were in the homeland in former times, it is to be expected that the popular practices in observing Michink will be different.
Today, Michink has become mostly an occasion enjoying the attention of women. It is principally the Armenian woman who makes an effort to recall the traditions of centuries past, and thereby to honor the customs of their forebearers.
The gatherings that take place after the church services at Michink consist usually of tables set with the appropriate Lenten foods, and of cultural programs that suit the occasion.
TRADITIONS OF MICHINK, CUSTOMS AND MORES
The Year’s Lucky One
A variety of special foods were prepared in the homes for Michink – unleavened breads, called “Paghartch,” and a kind of sandwich called “Koutap.”
It was common to hide a metal coin in the paghartch bread. At mealtime, or when there was a gathering of friends, the paghartch bread was cut into portions and given out to all present. They would watch eagerly to see who would be the year’s lucky one – of course, the one who got the portion with the coin.
The Michink Koutap was prepared for the same purpose. The koutap was a kind of sandwich of filling between two pieces of bread. The dough was prepared with olive oil, about egg-size or sometimes flattened; enclosed was a filling of boiled green beans, broad beans, and other vegetables. A colorful bead would be hidden in one of them, thus identifying the year’s lucky person.
Gifts for Brides-to-be
It was once a custom for engaged young men, or their families, to give the bride-to-be a gift at michink.
Michink – a Day of Freedom for Girls and Brides
In villages of the homeland it was customary to allow girls and new brides a day of freedom once a year, at michink. On that occasion, free of the supervision of older women or of mothers-in-law, they would take the koutaps they had baked and go off to some distant spot with their very close friends and spend some time together in unfettered talk, singing, and dancing.
That special occasion of Michink was looked upon as an opportunity for them to talk intimately about family difficulties, or possibly shed copious tears concerning a disappointment in love.