Holy See at Christmas.
Christmas mass was celebrated throughout the
Armenian Apostolic Church Monday evening with
the traditional greeting:
"Christ is born and revealed! Great tidings
to you and to us." And the reply: "Blessed
be the Revelation of Christ."
During world-wide ceremonies Armenian Christians
mark the birth of Jesus with candlelight services
symbolizing the Star of Bethlehem that led Magi
to the Christ.
And the Christmas Day ceremonies also mark the
first of five feasts in Church tradition.
"Christ came to earth to free people from
their sins and lead them to God. Christmas is
a celebration of spiritual renovation of the soul.
The symbol of the feast is connected with the
symbol of salvation," says priest Khoren
Christmas is also known among people as "zatik".
During zatik people also add to festive tables
fish, vegetables, wine and rice pilaf, which must
necessarily be mixed with raisins. These dishes
also announce the end of fasting.
faithful scramble for Holy Water.
Avetik Isahakyan (grandson of Armenian poet Avetik
Isahakyan), who visited the Holy See for mass
said: "This is our national holiday. By preserving
our religion for many centuries we have preserved
According to him, pilaf prepared at that day
symbolizes fertility and abundance while fish
symbolizes the miracle of Christ feeding thousands
with just a few fish.
Priest Khoren explains that during ancient times
early Christians used to draw fish in the sand
to recognize each other. About the wine that people
drink during the holiday he says: "The wine
is Christ's blood and we give mass also using
wine. The New Testament says, 'I am the true vine'."
On this holiday the yard of the Holy See in Echmiadzin
is full of believers. This year's services included
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vardan Oskanian,
who served as usher at the mass.
One believer, Lilit Karapetyan from Armavir,
spends January 5 and 6 in Echmiadzin and says
that each year she observes the Fast from December
30 to January 5. "On January 6 after the
mass I confess and after taking communion I end
In the evening of January 5, when darkness slowly
covers the city, one can everywhere meet people
holding lit candles in their hands and hurrying
to reach their homes.
light the path of faith.
"After candlelight mass people take lit
candles as a symbol of divine light," Ter
Khoren says. "They take lit candles to light
their homes with holy light of the Lord."
Seda Kartchikyan says that devote believers don't
do any housework that day. "I learned all
of that from my elder. Especially they used to
forbid laundering and having bath, namely, it
was forbidden to use soap. It was also strictly
forbidden to make needlework as it was regarded
as sin. And today all of that I transmitted to
my daughters and daughters-in-law."
While in much of the Western world Christian
churches celebrate Christmas on December 25, the
Armenian Apostolic Church has maintained the more
ancient date as its holy holiday. (January 6 is
also celebrated as the Day of Epiphany.)
Following mass, ministers at Holy Echmiadzin
distribute holy water - symbolic of granting absolution
and of healing. During ancient times people would
pour that water into pans for cheese and oil and
in the storehouses hoping that it will help in
Raya Margaryan returns from church holding in
her hand a small cup filled with the consecrated
water. "Every year I come here and take consecrated
water with me. It gives us success and health
and saves us from evil."
For the next month, spiritual shepherds of the
Church will be visiting people's houses to carry
out home consecration. They consecrate bread,
water and salt of the houses they visit. Residents
of houses eat bread and drink water and then the
priests splash consecrated water on the walls
and burn incense.
The festive holidays end January 13 (also known
as "Old New Year").