Armenian Apostolic Christmas

The Unique Traditions of Armenian Apostolic Christmas.

The Armenian Apostolic Christmas, celebrated on January 6th, marks a significant event in the Armenian Apostolic Church, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. Unlike many Western Christian traditions that observe Christmas on December 25th, the Armenian Apostolic Church, along with certain other Eastern Orthodox Churches, follows the ancient Julian calendar for their liturgical schedule. This celebration commemorates the Nativity of Jesus Christ as well as his baptism, known as Theophany or Epiphany in the Western churches. The day is marked by a series of religious ceremonies, including the Divine Liturgy, which is the most important service in the Armenian Apostolic Church. It features the lighting of candles, the singing of hymns, and the reading of Scriptures to honor the birth and baptism of Christ. The celebration is deeply embedded in the traditions and cultural identity of the Armenian people, encompassing both religious observances and festive family gatherings, where traditional foods and customs play a central role.

Key Traditions of the Armenian Apostolic Christmas

  1. Badarak (Divine Liturgy): The centerpiece of the Christmas celebration is the Divine Liturgy in the Armenian Apostolic Church, where the birth and baptism of Christ are commemorated with special hymns and scriptures.
  2. Home Blessing: Following the Christmas liturgy, it’s traditional for Armenian families to have their homes blessed. A priest usually visits to perform the blessing, signifying the start of the year with a sanctified home environment.
  3. Christmas Eve Bonfire: On the eve of Christmas, communities light bonfires at church courtyards. This tradition symbolizes the light of Christ entering the world and also commemorates the revelation to the shepherds.
  4. Fast of the Nativity: Leading up to Christmas, a period of fasting is observed. This is a time of preparation that concludes with the Christmas Eve meal, marking the end of the fast.
  5. Khetum (Christmas Eve Meal): A family meal that includes foods such as fish, rice, and vegetables, following the end of the fasting period. This meal is rich in symbolism and tradition.
  6. Gaghant Baba: The Armenian version of Santa Claus, called Gaghant Baba, visits homes to deliver gifts to children, symbolizing the gifts given to Jesus by the Magi.
  7. Dzmer Pap (Snow Elder): Another figure similar to Santa Claus, often accompanied by Gaghant Baba in Armenian Christmas traditions, representing the spirit of winter.
  8. Carol Singing: Carolers, known as khorhrtak’nk, visit homes singing traditional Armenian Christmas carols, spreading joy and festive spirit.

Most Important Works of Literature about Armenian Apostolic Christmas

  1. “The Armenian Liturgy”: This collection of liturgical hymns and prayers includes sections that are specifically used during the Christmas service, offering insight into the theological and cultural underpinnings of the celebration.
  2. “The Festal Works of St. Gregory of Narek”: St. Gregory of Narek, a key figure in Armenian religious thought, composed hymns and poems that are used in the context of Christmas, reflecting on the incarnation of Christ.

Best Cakes, Cookies, and Sweets for the Armenian Apostolic Christmas

  1. Anoushabour (Armenian Christmas Pudding): A traditional Christmas pudding made from barley, dried fruits, and nuts, symbolizing fertility and good fortune.
  2. Pakhlava (Baklava): Layers of filo pastry filled with nuts and sweetened with honey or syrup, often prepared for Christmas as a luxurious treat.
  3. Kurabia (Snowball Cookies): These are buttery shortbread cookies, often coated in powdered sugar, resembling snowballs, popular during the Christmas season.
  4. Gata: A sweet bread or cake, often filled with khoriz (a mixture of flour, butter, and sugar), which is a staple during Armenian Christmas celebrations.
  5. Rochi: A type of nougat made with honey, egg whites, and roasted nuts, typically enjoyed during the holiday season.
  6. Sujukh (Armenian Walnut Sausage): Although not a sweet in the traditional sense, this string of walnuts encased in a grape molasses jelly is a unique Armenian delicacy often associated with festive times.
  7. Dried Fruits and Nuts: A simple yet traditional offering during Christmas, symbolizing the harvest and abundance.

Featured image: wikipedia

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