Thursday, January 05, 2006

Armenian Christmas, Greek Epiphany

The Armenian Orthodox church celebrates the Feast of the Nativity and Theophany on January 6, which is tomorrow.  A note in the St. James Armenian Apostolic Church's bulletin (PDF) explains why:

Why Do Armenians Celebrate Christmas on January 6th?

"Armenian Christmas," as it is popularly called, is a culmination of celebrations of events related to Christ's Incarnation.  Theophany, or Epiphany (or Asdvadz-a-haydnootyoon in Armenian, which means "Revelation of God").  This is the central theme of the Christmas Season in the Armenian Church.  During the Armenian Christmas season, the major events celebrated are the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem and His Baptism in the River Jordan.  The day of this major feast in the Armenian Church is January 6th.  A ceremony called “Blessing of Water” is conducted in the Armenian Church to commemorate Christ’s Baptism.

It is frequently asked why Armenians do not celebrate Christmas on December 25th with the rest of the world.  Obviously, the exact date of Christ's birth has not been historically established nor is it recorded in the Gospels.  However, historically, all Christian churches celebrated Christ's birth on January 6th until the fourth century.  The feast of Christmas was not a separate church feast for the first four centuries of Christian history.  It was celebrated with Epiphany in the one great feast of God's appearance on earth in the form of the human Messiah of Israel.

The Nativity began to be celebrated on the twenty-fifth of December in order to offset the pagan festival of the Invincible Sun, which occurred on that day.  The Church established it quite consciously as an attempt to defeat the false religion of heathens.  Christ is the True Sun of Righteousness (Mal 4:2), who is himself worshipped by all of the elements of nature.


Christ was revealed at His Baptism as God and Savior.  The voice of the Father and appearance of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove likewise was a revelation of the Holy Trinity and One Godhead.

The feast of Christmas is the celebration of the world's salvation through the Son of God who became man for our sake that, through Him, we might ourselves become divine sons of God the Father by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit in us.

Other Churches

The Greek Orthodox Church also celebrates tomorrow as a holy day, the Feast of Epiphany, when the three wise men or Magi arrived in Bethlehem.

The Old Calendrist Orthodox churches (including the Russians and Serbians) celebrate Christmas on January 7th, which is December 25th on the Julian calendar. 

Roman Catholics around the world will celebrate Epiphany as a holy day tomorrow, January 6th, but for Catholics in the United States this solemn feast has been deferred until the following Sunday, which this year falls on January 8th. 

Armenian Bible Exhibit through Sunday

Due to Armenian Christmas, the Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA) has extended its exhibit, "The Breath of God: The Bible in the Armenian Tradition", until Sunday, January 8th.  The museum will be open Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 pm.  (It might be open Friday afternoon from 1-5 pm as well, but as this is Armenian Christmas, it would be best to call.)

The exhibit examines the most important book in the Armenian tradition, the Holy Bible, known in Armenian as the Asdvadzashoonch. The focal point of the exhibit is the "Garabed Gospel Book" (1207 AD) donated to ALMA by Julie Der Garabedian of Wisconsin.

The exhibit has been extended. It will close on January 8, 2006. On that afternoon ALMA will hold a reception honoring the Ms. Der Garabedian for her wisdom and benefaction in ensuring that the Gospel Book is permanently housed in its rightful place for the benefit of all Armenians and Americans.

For directions, contact information, and rate schedule, click here.


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