Our celebration, however, marks the
original date for celebrating the birthday of Jesus.
Until the 4th century, many
Christians around the world used January 6 to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Then the date was changed December
25th in order to override pagan sun festivals celebrated around that time.
Since some Christians continued to
observe the pagan festivities, early church leaders in some places, including
Rome, wanted to undermine and subdue this pagan practice by combining them with
a celebration of the birth of Christ.
So the church hierarchy designated
December 25th as the official date of Christmas and January 6th as the feast of
Since the Armenian Christians didnt
have the problem that the Romans and the Orthodox Christians had, the Armenians
continued to celebrate Christmas on January 6, just as we have since the first
So for us, Christmas Eve is January
5, and Christmas Day Mass and the celebrations start in the morning on January
On Christmas Eve and the next
morning, Armenians greet each other with Christmas greetings.
"The birth of Jesus Christ," a miniature artwork by Armen Daneghyan
Qristos tsnav ev haitnetsav,
Orhneal e haitnutun@ Qristosi,
we say, which
means, Christ is born and revealed, Blessed is the revelation of Christ.
The center of the Armenian Apostolic
Church is located in the city of Etchmiadzin, and it is the main cathedral of
the Armenian church.
Built in 303, holy Etchmiadzin is
like a magnet for millions of Armenians spread around the world.
Each year, during Christmas, the
head of the Armenian church, currently Katholikos Karekin II sends his
traditional Christmas message to all the Armenian faithful around the world.
On January 5th,
everyone goes to church at sunset and brings lighted candles home with them.
The church service is
followed by a huge fish or seafood-based dinner at home, with a special dessert
decorated with a star of slivered almonds to symbolize the Nativity Star guiding
the Wise Men.
Everyone in the family
puts their shoes outside their doorway that evening, hoping for the special
candies, pomegranates and small presents that are sure to be in them in the
morning, left by the Wise Men in remembrance of the Nativity.
Children, most of all,
like this tradition, but some adults follow it as well.
On January 6, Surp
Dznund (Christmas or, The Holy Birth), of course means eating more food.
fasting, or abstaining from meat, on December 30. The holy fast ends on
Christmas when meat is again allowed on the table.
Family members usually give gifts to
each other on New Year Day, but on Christmas, they also give each other some
sweets and cakes.