Armenia is in southwestern Asia, east of Turkey. Other neighbors of Armenia are Georgia and Azerbaijan. Armenians believe Christ’s birthday should be celebrated on the same day as His baptism, which is January 6. This date is Christmas Eve on the old Julian calendar and that is when Russia, Syria, Iraq, Ethiopia and other countries east of Rome celebrate the traditional Orthodox Christian Christmas.
Christmas Celebrations in Armenia :
In Armenia, Christmas coincides with the Epiphany. The Armenians who go by the old traditions, prepare for Christmas with a fast. They eat no meat for a week and no food at all on the last day before Christmas. The fast is broken only after the Christmas Eve service – Badarak, when they return home to a dinner of lamb and rice or Boulgeur Pilav. Devout Armenians may even refrain from food for the three days leading up to the Christmas Eve, in order to receive the Eucharist on a “pure” stomach. Christmas Eve is particularly rich in traditions.
Historically, all Christian churches celebrated Christ’s birth on January 6th until the fourth century. At that time, the Roman church hierarchy designated December 25th as the official date of Christmas and January 6th as the feast of Epiphany. Armenia was not effected by this change for the simple fact. The Armenian Church was not a satellite of the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, remaining faithful to the traditions of their forefathers, Armenians continue to celebrate Christmas on January 6.
Families gather for the Christmas Eve dinner, which generally consists of: rice, fish, nevik, and yogurt/wheat soup. Dessert includes dried fruits and nuts, including rojik, which consists of whole shelled walnuts threaded on a string and encased in grape jelly, bastukh (a paper-like confection of grape jelly, cornstarch, and flour), etc. The Christmas Eve meal is called khetum. This lighter menu is designed to ease the stomach off the week-long fast and prepare it for the rather more substantial Christmas Day dinner. Children take presents of fruits, nuts, and other candies to older relatives.
In addition to the Christmas tree, Armenians (particularly in the Middle East) also erect the Nativity scene. Christmas in the Armenian tradition is a purely religious affair. Santa Claus Gaghant Baba / Kaghand Papa traditionally comes on New Year’s Eve (December 31st) because Christmas Day itself is thought of as more of a religious holiday in Armenia. Santa Claus does not visit the nice Armenian children on Christmas, but rather on New Year’s Eve. The idea of Santa Claus existed before the Soviet Union and he was named kaghand papik, but the Soviet Union had a great impact even on Santa Claus. Now he goes by the more secular name of Grandfather Winter.
In photo above you can see the giant Christmas tree with its thousands of lights in the middle of the Republic Square in Yerevan put up on the new year’s eve.
In Armenian Happy/Merry Christmas is Shnorhavor Amanor yev Surb Tznund (which means ‘Congratulations for the Holy Birth’). At the beginning of December a big Christmas Tree (Tonatsar) is put up in Republic Square in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Favorite and traditional Holiday foods in Armenia include Anooshaboor (Armenian Christmas Pudding), Khozee bood (glazed ham) and dried fruits.
Apart from the capital city of Yerevan, Christmas is also celebrated in a big manner in some other populated of the country like Gyumri, Vanadzor, Vagharshapat, Hrazdan, etc
We wish all readers Merry Christmas 2016 & Prosperous New Year !!!