Gatah is a traditional Armenian sweet bread, made with simple ingredients: flour, butter and sugar. Traditionally, gatah is made for the festival of Tiarn’daraj, or, more commonly, Derendez, commemorating the day Jesus was presented to the temple, known in the occidental world as the Candlemas.Tiarn’daraj is celebrated 40 days after Christmas, which according to the calendar of the Armenian Apostolic Church happens every year on January the 6th, and not December the 25th.
Even nowadays, this holiday is celebrated in Armenia and according to the tradition in some areas of the country fires are lit in church courtyards and in front of houses. Tradition has it that observing the direction the smoke takes and withdrawing part of the ambers will bring good auspices. The withdrawn ambers are used to light the domestic tonirs.
Tonirs are underground clay ovens, their shape is either cylindrical or like an upside down bell; they have very diverse functions and are highly significant to Armenian culture. During the Tiarn’daraj they are used to boil fresh milk and cook gatah.
Gatah has a round shape and is often decorated with signs or designs made of leftover dough, and it is often stuffed with “khoriz”, a mass made with butter and sugar to which almonds or matsuni (Armenian yoghurt) are sometimes added. Gatah often accompanies Armenian tea prepared using the samovar or other hot beverages like coffee.
Nowadays traditional gatah is hard to find, because it is produced by the confectionery industry, which has changed some of its characteristics, such as the connection with the Tiarn’daraj feast and the use of the tonir to cook it.