Armenian Christmas Means Food, Tradition

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Jan. 6 signifies the traditional celebration of Christmas for a small population in the United States, the Armenians.

Traditionally Christmas around the world was celebrated on Jan. 6, according to the Julian calendar. However, in 4 A.D. the Roman Catholic Church designated Christmas on the Dec. 25 to override pagan festivities held on the same date.

Armenia was not affected by this change because there was no direct affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church and that there were no such pagan practices on that date. This is why Armenians continue to celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6.

Jan. 5 signifies the beginning of the celebrations for the Armenian people. On that evening there is a candlelight mass at church, or candles are lit at home. While some believers fast on the first day of the holiday, many feast on a large meal.

After the mass, a prayer dinner is served; dinner consists of a variety of foods but the most traditional is “kookoo,” a fried patty made with a mixture of parsley, cilantro, spinach, and eggs. This is accompanied by rice pilaf and smoked salted white fish. Wine is also served with “nshkhark” (holy bread).

The following day is Christmas, the baptism of Jesus. On this day people attend church for the water sanctification ceremony during the Christmas mass. Huge basins of water are placed on a stage in the church and then the cleric sanctifies the water by adding holy water. The people in attendance usually bring bottles and vials with the hopes of getting some of the holy water.

After the priest disperses the holy water to the crowd, it is taken back home and shared with family members. The rest of the day is usually spent with family, friends and loved ones, bringing an end to Christmas day.