Armenia is the first country to adopt Christianity as a state religion. This was over 1700 years ago. Not surprisingly, Christian traditions are strong in the country. And first of all, the tradition of celebrating Christmas!
Armenians are the only Christians in the world who celebrate Christmas and Epiphany on the same day – January 6th.
The reason is not the difference between the old and new calendar. Historically, all Christian churches, up to the 4th century, celebrated the birth of Christ on January 6th. But the date of the celebration of Christmas was changed from January 6 to December 25, which was the traditional pagan holiday dedicated to the birth of the Sun. Because Christians still continued to observe these pagan holidays, in order to undermine this pagan tradition, the church hierarchy proclaimed December 25 as the official date of Christmas, and January 6 as the feast of Epiphany and Baptism. Therefore, after the change of the calendar, in the Orthodox Church, these dates shifted to January 7 and January 19, respectively. However, these changes did not affect Armenia. Thus, the Armenians continue to celebrate Christmas and Epiphany on January 6 to this day.
On the eve of the feast of the Holy Nativity (January 5), in the evening, the churches serve a Christmas liturgy called “Chragaluits” (burning lamps). On this day, believers light a candle in the church and bring the Christmas fire home. It symbolizes the light of the Star of Bethlehem, which showed the Magi the way to the baby Christ.
After the liturgy, the faithful greet each other with the words “Christ was born and appeared! Blessed be the appearance of Christ!”
On the morning of the next day, everyone gathers as families for the Christmas Liturgy and Holy Communion. On the same day, immediately after the service, a ceremony is held in the Armenian Apostolic Church called “Blessing the Water”, dedicated to the baptism of Christ.
Christmas in Armenia is a family holiday that gathers relatives and friends around a richly laid festive table. Fish is traditionally served. They also cook sweet rice pilaf with dried apricots and raisins, green dishes, as well as traditional Armenian gata for dessert. And, of course, red wine, which is a must.
Each of these dishes has its own purpose. Rice symbolizes people on Earth, raisins and dried apricots are prayers. The fish has been a symbol of Christians since ancient times and distinguishes them from followers of other religions. Red wine symbolizes the blood of Jesus Christ. And the round traditional sweet Gata bread is divided into 12 parts, symbolizing the 12 months of the year.
Choose our tour to Armenia for the New Year, and we will definitely celebrate Christmas together in Armenian.