The Armenian Apostolic church uses the Julian Calendar and celebrates Christmas on January 6th. The Fast of Holy Nativity starts on the evening of December 29th and ends on the Christmas Eve.
Meanwhile, most Armenians lay lavish tables on New Year’s Eve and celebrate with a lot of food. Khozi bood (glazed ham) and lots of meat products leave little chance for the believers determined to fast. New Year’s Eve and the following 3 days are a period of paying courtesy visits to relatives, respected friends, colleges and seating at the table and tasting the plentiful food…
A lot of Christmas symbolism is applied to the New Year instead of Christmas in Armenia. On New Year’s Eve we put up a Tonatsar (Christmas tree), prepare gifts for our children, because Dzmer Pap (or Kaghand Pap, otherwise known as Santa Clause) with Dzyunanushik (Snow-white, Santa Clause’s granddaughter) comes to Armenia on New Year’s Eve, not on Christmas.
Things get further complicated, because many young people celebrate Christmas on December 25th, with the tradition of Western Christian Church penetrating Armenia through Hollywood movies and other types of Californication.
Christmas Day itself is more of a religious holiday in Armenia, so the feasts of New Year’s Eve are not really seen as appropriate. The day’s traditional food is harisa, fish and red wine.
With all of this confusion, New Year becomes Armenia’s favorite holiday, while the real Holy Day – the day of Christmas, pales and becomes something of a complimentary holiday.
I understand, that the root of the problem lies in our Soviet heritage. The Communists, who were atheists in their beliefs, fought fiercely against Christianity for 70 years. This included forbidding Christmas and encouraging lavish celebration of New Year as a replacement. Now, 20 years after Soviets are gone, we still see the impact.
I volunteered to work on December 31st and January 1st this year (as well as previous two years), because I firmly believe, that the real holiday for me should be the Armenian Christmas day – January 6th. Consider this my little protest against the extravagant New Year celebrations and a challenge to myself, to learn to appreciate real Armenian traditions and values.
I want to finish this post by wishing you all a “Shnorhavor Soorb Tsnund” (which means ‘Congratulations for the Holy Birth’). Let this year be full of blessings and joy for us and our wonderful country – Armenia.