Armenians don't have Christmas?

Posted By: Wondering

Armenians don't have Christmas? - 11/20/06 05:56 AM

I found this article online which says that Theophany and Christmas were celebrated together as the beginning of Jesus' life and ministry, with the east focusing more on Theophany and the west more on the Nativity. It says that the Armenians continue this tradition with the single celebration on Theophany. Is this accurate?

Posted By: Father Anthony

Re: Armenians don't have Christmas? - 11/20/06 06:59 AM

dear Wondering,

I believe within the past twenty years,the Armenian Apostolic Church has seperated the two feasts like most churches in Christendom and observe them separately. I can not tell you this with absolute certainty, or why they decided now to do it. Maybe someone else can enlighten us on this matter.

Father Anthony+
Posted By: Fr. Deacon Lance

Re: Armenians don't have Christmas? - 11/20/06 12:21 PM

Why Armenians Celebrate Christmas on January 6th?
by Hratch Tchilingirian

"Armenian Christmas," as it is popularly called, is a culmination of
celebrations of events related to Christ's Incarnation. Theophany or
Epiphany (or Astvadz-a-haytnootyoon in Armenian) means
"revelation of God," which is the central theme of the Christmas
Season in the Armenian Church. During the "Armenian Christmas"
season, the major events that are celebrated are the Nativity of
Christ in Bethlehem and His Baptism in the River Jordan. The day
of this major feast in the Armenian Church is January 6th. A
ceremony called “Blessing of Water” is conducted in the
Armenian Church to commemorate Christ’s Baptism.
It is frequently asked as to why Armenians do not celebrate
Christmas on December 25th with the rest of the world. Obviously,
the exact date of Christ's birth has not been historically
established—it is neither recorded in the Gospels. However,
historically, all Christian churches celebrated Christ's birth on
January 6th until the fourth century. According to Roman Catholic
sources, the date was changed from January 6th to December 25th
in order to override a pagan feast dedicated to the birth of the Sun
which was celebrated on December 25th. At the time Christians
used to continue their observance of these pagan festivities. In
order to undermine and subdue this pagan practice, the church
hierarchy designated December 25th as the official date of
Christmas and January 6th as the feast of Epiphany. However,
Armenia was not effected by this change for the simple fact that
there were no such pagan practices in Armenia, on that date, and
the fact that the Armenian Church was not a satellite of the Roman
Church. Thus, remaining faithful to the traditions of their
forefathers, Armenians have continued to celebrate Christmas on
January 6th until today.
In the Holy Land: January 18th
In the Holy Land, the Orthodox churches use the old calendar
(which has a difference of twelve days) to determine the date of
the religious feasts. Accordingly, the Armenians celebrate
Christmas on January 18th and the Greek Orthodox celebrate on
January 6th.
On the day before Armenian Christmas, January 17th, the
Armenian Patriarch together with the clergy and the faithful,
travels from Jerusalem to the city of Bethlehem, to the Church of
Nativity of Christ, were elaborate and colorful ceremonies take
place. Outside, in the large square of the Church of Nativity, the
Patriarch and his entourage are greeted by the Mayor of Bethlehem
and City officials. A procession led by Armenian scouts and their
band, advance the Patriarch into the Church of Nativity, while
priests, seminarians and the faithful join in the sing of Armenian
hymns. Afterwards, church services and ceremonies are conducted
in the Cathedral of Nativity all night long and until the next day,
January 18th.

Posted By: Laka Ya Rabb

Re: Armenians don't have Christmas? - 11/20/06 03:50 PM


The reply to the title of your thread is two-fold.
First, no Orthodox have a Chistmas, or Christ-Mass. Why, because it's not Mass, it's Divine Liturgy.
Second, the Armenians do not have Christmas?
The answer is in the negative, No, they do not not have Christmas. They do indeed celebrate the birth of Christ.

I think you knew all this though. smile
Posted By: Wondering

Re: Armenians don't have Christmas? - 11/20/06 04:14 PM


Yes, I did. I thank you for the reminder. It just doesn't sound the same to title a thread "Armenians don't have a Nativity liturgy on Dec 25 or any other date because they subdued it for Theophany which incorporates the Nativity feast?" smile lol
Posted By: Wondering

Re: Armenians don't have Christmas? - 11/20/06 04:15 PM

Fr. Anthony and Lance,
Thank you for the information! I hope someone who is familiar with today's celebrations will be able to clarify what is done today.
Posted By: Fr Serge Keleher

Re: Armenians don't have Christmas? - 11/20/06 05:28 PM

Armenians don't have a Nativity liturgy on Dec 25 or any other date because they subdued it for Theophany which incorporates the Nativity feast

Not exactly. Theophany and Nativity of Christ were originally one feast - which is why many of the "Christmas" sermons of the Holy Fathers are titled In Theophania. There are still a few traces of this original identity left in our liturgical tradition.

Long before the Great Schism, the West began to celebrate the Nativity of Christ as a separate feast. As often happens, this enjoyable practice spread and eventually all the Eastern Churches picked it up, except for the Armenians, who continued to celebrate the one Feast for both Mysteries.

The Armenian Catholics, who were obviously under a stronger Western influence, added a separate Nativity of Christ Feast to their liturgical calendar - I'm not certain as to when this happened (if there are any Armenian Catholics on the Forum, it would be a kindness to tell us). But the Armenian Apostolic Church remained content with the one Feast.

Then came the horrid Calendar upsetment - many Armenian Apostolic Christians accepted the Gregorian Calendar for the fixed feasts; some others did not. But that is a melancholy story with which we are only too familiar.

If any of the Armenian Apostolic Churches have recently begun to celebrate a separate feast of the Nativity of Christ, that is of considerable interest. Can someone provide details?

Father Serge
Posted By: Wondering

Re: Armenians don't have Christmas? - 11/22/06 03:06 AM

Fr. Serge,

Thank you for the clarifications! I hope someone can further offer modern info to both of us.
Posted By: Edward Yong

Re: Armenians don't have Christmas? - 11/24/06 06:30 PM

Ach, but the Copts do!

'Mas' in Coptic means 'birth', hence they are very content to call the feast 'Christmas'.
Posted By: CDeM

Re: Armenians don't have Christmas? - 11/27/06 03:14 PM

Slava Isusu Hristu!

I grew up in the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC). So...

25 December is St. Stephan's Day in the AAC calendar. 6 January is the Feast of the Nativity and Theophany of Jesus. The AAC does not separate birth from baptism.

Some AAC parishes will have Christmas carols or a prayer service on 24 or 25 December. This is really an accomodation to parishoners who feel an urge to join in the birthday party being celebrated around them by other churches.

The Armenian Catholic Church celebrates Christmas on 25 December and His baptism on 6 January.

God bless,

Posted By: CDeM

Re: Armenians don't have Christmas? - 11/27/06 03:29 PM

Dear all:

This comes from the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church (New York):


"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.' And lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh." (Matthew 2:1-11, RSV)

How should we explain the celebration of Christmas on January 6 in the Armenian Church to our families and children?

Parents could explain to their children that even at the time of the Holy Apostles the traditions in the Christian churches in the different parts of the world were not uniform and that Christmas was probably not observed at all in the very early Church. Parents could add that by the end of the third century Christmas in Rome was held on December 25, which coincided with a major pagan feast, while in the Eastern churches it was observed on January 6. The Armenian Church has maintained that ancient tradition to this day, whereas the Greek-speaking Christian world switched to the Latin tradition at the end of the fourth century. Children should know that both traditions are old and must be respected, and that as good Christians they must focus on the spirit of the Nativity of the Savior and not the differences in traditions.

Is there a recommended way to celebrate Christmas on December 25 and January 6 in an Armenian household today?

Armenian-American households may exchange Christmas gifts on December 25, since it is the custom in American society to do so. In traditional Armenian circles gifts were exchanged on January 1, which is not a day of religious significance. Replacing that tradition with a gift exchange on December 25 is not a major deviation, since the January 1 is only a few hundred years old and is taken from the West. As in American society, Armenian families may have their reunions and dinners on December 25. In some of our churches in the United States it has become traditional to hold the feast of St. Stephen the Proto-martyr on Christmas Eve (December 24), though that feast is movable and may not always fall on December 24.

If possible, the faithful should fast during the seven-day period preceding January 6 and should inform their children that they are fasting as a way of preparation for Christmas. On the evening of January 5, families should attend church and participate in the celebration of the Christmas Eve Divine Liturgy. They should do the same thing on the morning of January 6 and observe that day as the Feast of the Theophany (the Manifestation of God). If they are prepared, they should receive Holy Communion either on January 5 or January 6. Our pastors will provide letters to explain to school authorities the absence of the Armenian children from school on January 6.

Posted By: Wondering

Re: Armenians don't have Christmas? - 11/29/06 02:08 AM

Thank you! (All of you!)
Posted By: JonnNightwatcher

Re: Armenians don't have Christmas? - 11/29/06 07:47 PM

I recently read a text that said that Christmas is not as important as Epiphany for the Armenians, but they still have Jesus Christ, which is more than can be said for a lot of people.
Much Love,
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