Jewish Journal

Merry Armenian Christmas

by Brad A. Greenberg

January 6, 2010 | 1:40 pm

And you thought Christmas cheer happened but once a year.

While most Christians stopped celebrating the holiday a few days before New Year’s—and most all the lights in my neighborhood have been taken down—some Christians, including Armenians, celebrate Jesus’ birth today:

On a date that comes later (or, some might argue, much earlier), than traditional Western Christmas, Armenians across Southern California will gather Wednesday to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and his baptism in the Jordan River. Many will flock to Orthodox Christian churches to participate in a solemn, centuries-old service in which people drink holy water believed to contain some of the same oil used to baptize Jesus. Then they will gather, generally without gifts, to dine and rejoice in their homes.

The celebration, known to some as Theophany or simply Armenian Christmas, follows the original Julian calendar as opposed to the standard Western or Gregorian calendar. When Christians began to celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 as dictated by the Romans, Armenians held to the original Jan. 6 date.

It is not to be confused with El Dia de los Reyes or Three Kings Day, which is celebrated by many Spanish-speaking Catholics on Jan. 6 and marks the adoration of the Christ child by the kings, or Magi.

For Armenians living in America, the dual holidays add more cheer to an already-packed season.

“We double-dip,” Dekmejian said. “It’s an extended Christmas period from the 24th until the sixth.”

More from the LA Times here.

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