Armenian Christmas cartoon by Sareen Akharjalian
Happy Armenian Christmas! Why is it that Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 6, rather than on December 25th with the rest of the (Christian) world? Since the exact date of Christ’s birth had not been established (nor recorded in the Gospels), all Christian churches celebrated Christ’s birth on January 6th until the fourth century.
According to Catholic sources, the date was changed from January 6th to December 25th to override a pagan feast dedicated to the birth of the Sun which was celebrated on December 25th (which Christians, at that time, also observed). In an effort to subdue pagan practice, the church hierarchy designated December 25th as the official date of Christmas and January 6th as the feast of Epiphany.
Because there were no such pagan practices in Armenia, the country was not affected by this change. Remaining faithful to the traditions of their forefathers, Armenians continue to celebrate Christmas on January 6th.
In Armenia, the Christmas Eve meal often includes dishes such as rice, fish, a yogurt-wheat soup called tanabur. Desserts include dried fruits, nuts, and rojik (whole shelled walnuts threaded on a string and encased in grape jelly), bastukh (a paper-like dessert made of grape jelly, cornstarch and flour). And most houses are ready with lots of food and sweets because anyone might knock on the door and come in for a party!
Big Papa, Baby Bird and I celebrated with relatives last night (it was already January 6 in Armenia since they are 12 hours ahead of Seattle time). We lit our Armenian (tuff) candle and filled our table (and our bellies) with dried fruit (including dried apricots we brought back from Armenia…delicious), nuts, hummus, pomegranates, dolma and pakhlava–of course! And we toasted to our daughter’s homeland with a bit of bubbly mixed with Armenian pomegranate wine.