The Celebration of Christmas in Armenia

Christmas in Armenia

Christmas is a time when the “Box of Miracles” opens to grant everyone with love, kindness and realization of dreams. Our souls are filled with cherished feelings, strong belief and happy mood. And today, on this festive evening all Christians with their children and even small babies in their arms along with all who await the Savior hurry to the manger to see the newborn Jesus and the wise magi who came to present their gifts to Infant Jesus. The happy celebration on the feast’s eve is followed by a beautiful Holy Nativity performance in Etchmiadzin, the holy center of all Christian people. Today the whole Christian world resembles Bethlehem where the wise and the humble shepherds worship the newborn Jesus Christ lying in the little straw box. The performance imitates the nativity and epiphany of Christ: in Christian tradition, the Star of Bethlehem, also called the Christmas Star, revealed the birth of Jesus to the magi, and later led them to Bethlehem. The star appears in the nativity story of the Gospel of Matthew, where magi from the east are inspired by the star to travel to Jerusalem.
Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates the Christ’s Nativity and Baptism on January 6 with solemn ceremonies. But in the whole world Christmas is celebrated on various days because of differences in Julian and Gregorian calendars. Catholic Church celebrates Christmas on December 25 according to the Julian calendar and the Orthodox Church celebrates it on January 7 according to the Gregorian calendar. It is interesting that until the 4th century Christians all over the world had been celebrating Christmas on January 6. But even after the adoption of Christianity many nations, especially the Romans, continued celebrating the sun worship which fell on December 25. To prevent the pagan traditions in
336 the Roman Church declared December 25 the official birthday of Jesus Christ. Later Christmas day moved on December 25 nearly in the whole East and January 6 remained as the day of Epiphany and Christ’s Baptism.
Adhering to ancient traditions Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates both holidays on January 6. The Orthodox Church begins celebrating the holiday on the evening of January 6 with the divine service in church and continues the festive ceremonies on January 7. According to the Armenian Church the week preceding Christmas is a lent period. People usually come out of the lent in the evening of January 5 with Divine Liturgy after which they take lights from church to their homes to burn them on the evening supper as a sign of divine light and blessing. Traditional Christmas dishes are fish as the symbol of Christianity, and rice made with raisins; rice symbolizes the whole mankind and the raisins are the selected ones, who were chosen by God.
Next morning, on January 6 people visit church to be present at St. Liturgy after which they take part in the ceremony of “Water Blessing” that symbolizes the baptism of Christ in Jordan River. The miraculous water blessed by the Holy cross and sprayed with Sacred Chrism is distributed to people. Celebration and customs differ from country to country but the holiday remains favorite one in Christian world. Christmas is considered to be the most domestic holiday which is celebrated in a warm homely atmosphere. This is a period of time when all are happy and hurry to congratulate each other with the following words:

“Christ is Born and Revealed Great Tidings to you and us”!

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