The article is adapted and translated by Christina Hayrapetyan from the book “Armenian National Holidays” by Hranush Kharatyan-Arakelyan (Yerevan, Armenia 2000).
Armenian Church celebrates both Christmas and Baptism on January 6. The Christmas celebrations in Armenia are mainly based on ecclesiastical rites.
During the centuries some national traditions have, anyway, been interlaced with the church ceremony wrapping the feast with some folklore. According to the stable custom the fire at home was laid to burn continually from January 1 to January 6.
In the evening of January 5, after taking part in the Divine Liturgy, people would go back home taking a candle for each member of the family. The candles were placed at the dinner table by everyone’s plate.
The fast was announced to be quitted with holiday dishes. The main dish of that evening was the fish prepared with many various recipes served with fatty pilaf. There was also a soup called “Mariam’s” soup; it was cooked with peas and a kind of dried plant, which was believed to have been picked by Virgin Mary.
When the dinner table was ready and the whole family was together in the candle lights, cheerful groups of little boys wearing white cloths would appear to sing about the Nativity and to get nuts and sweets in return. These were folk songs called “Avedis” (good news) and they reflected the nation’s imagination about Jesus Christ’s birth and life and praised his glorious deeds. There were also some songs with good wishes to the families, still called “Avedis”.
All songs ended in:
- Christ is born and revealed among us.
- To you and us the good news.
On January 6 after the Liturgy a ceremony was to take place to represent Jesus Christ’s Baptism in Jordan River. This feast is known in the nation as “Jrorhneq” (water blessing) or Dipping the Cross into water. In front of the public the priest would dip the Cross into water and drop some Holy Muron (Holy Chrism) in it. This feast was accompanied with merriments, shootings and releasing doves in the air.
Then the people would put their hands into the blessed water and smear it on the aching parts of their body. They also took some water home, sprinkled on their oil and cheese jars and storehouses hoping for fertility.