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Christmas in Armenia. Why Do Armenians Celebrate Christmas on January 6th?

Lent is the church year’s first feast and the last of the civil year. Its 40-day duration reminded us of Moses’ fast on Mount Sinai when he waited to receive God’s words written on the stone tablets of the Law. 

Armenians fast before Christmas because they consider this period a time of purification. The Christmas fast lasts 40 days, as does the Easter quickly. The Lent of the Nativity is more permissive, with more days of unleavened, and ends at Christmas.

In the beginning, all Christian churches celebrated this Nativity on January 6. Still, later, by order of Constantine the Great, the Catholic Church, for example, began to celebrate it on December 25. The Armenian Church has not changed. Until now, the Armenian Church and the ancient Eastern churches have remained faithful to mark the day of the Holy Nativity and Baptism on the same day, 6 January.

Read also: Feast of the Transfiguration. What Was the Transfiguration of Jesus?

How long does the Armenian Christmas fast last?

Armenians worldwide celebrate the Nativity and Baptism of the Lord on January 6. Christmas Eve is on January 5. With good deeds, prayer, and humility, fasting is a means of acquiring virtues.

The Armenian Christmas fast lasts from 30 December to 5 January. I wonder if it is observed with holiness because January 1st is the New Year, and therefore it must be celebrated too. From a dietary point of view, Lent is easier than Lent because fish is eaten on Saturdays and Sundays and on religious holidays.

The Orthodox Churches have not fallen “to peace.” As such, some have celebrated Christmas on 25 December, such as the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, the Egyptian Coptic Church, the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Churches, the Syriac Orthodox Church, and the Malankara Orthodox Church in India are to celebrate Christmas on 6 January. It all stems from the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon (451), which the Armenian church representatives did not attend because of the fighting with the Persians. In this context, the Armenian Orthodox people certainly respect the primary Christian calendar.

Read more: Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Why do St. Peter and Paul share a feast day?

Along with the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, other Eastern Orthodox Churches, the so-called non-Chalcedonian Churches keep the same tradition of celebrating Christmas on 6 January, with the Baptism of the Lord: the Egyptian Coptic Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the Eritrean Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Malankara Orthodox Church in India.

Armenians call Christmas Shnorhavor Amanor, yet Surb Tznund Day. On Christmas, Armenians wish each other “Shnorhavor Nor Dari iv Surp Dznunt.” For Armenians around the world, it is Christmas Eve. If they have already ended for Orthodox Christians, they are just beginning for Armenian and Old Style believers. For the Armenians, it’s Christmas Eve, children caroling and receiving gifts from Santa Claus.

“The date of the celebration of the Nativity was changed in the Roman Empire after the acceptance of Christianity among the empire’s religions by Emperor Constantine (Edict of Milan, 313 CE).

Key Verse related to Armenian Christmas

“There is a danger one must know much more because you can’t be too narrow on science.”

Author: Ahmed H. Zewail

Christmas in Armenia

Read also: All Saints’ Day. What Is The History And Meaning Of This Feast?

The Christmas tree customers are yet to be discovered precisely where they originated. It is thought that the Christmas tree first appeared among the Germanic peoples, and in time it became part of Christian tradition. 

At Christmas time, Armenians have Christmas trees. There is also the custom of placing a star at the top of the Christmas tree, a symbol of the star that guided the Magi to Bethlehem. 

Christmas has always been a holiday of joy for Christians, but especially for children, who look forward to decorating the Christmas tree or going trick-or-treating and receiving gifts in return. At the same time, it is customary for Christians to go to church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and then have a family meal with their loved ones.