When is Armenian Orthodox Christmas?
Armenian Christmas is a culmination of celebrations of events related to the birth and baptism of Christ.
In Lebanon, Christmas is celebrated twice; first on 25 December and then as a holiday on 6 January for the Armenian Lebanese community who celebrate Christmas on the the same date as Epiphany.
The reason for the different date is that until the fourth century, Christ's birth was celebrated by the Christian church on 6 January. Two of the Gospels in the Bible mention the birth of Christ but neither give any details as to the date. This lack of detail also combined with the celebration of birthdays not being a big Christian tradition and Easter being seen as the more important date.
As Christianity expanded into Western Europe, the people there had been celebrating a Roman holiday ('Solis Invicti') on 25 December. Rather than compete with an already popular holiday, the church simply decided to move Christmas Day to 25 December and celebrate 6 January as the Feast of the Epiphany. Undoubtedly, Solis Invicti itself was a holiday created to overwrite previous Pagan winter solstice celebrations.
In Armenia however, there was no such solstice tradition and Armenian Christians didn't feel bound to move their Christmas from 6 January.
Things got more complicated with the adoption of the Gregorian calender, as some regions in the Middle east stayed with the Julian Calendar and therefore Armenian Christmas there is still celebrated on 18 January.
Orthodox Christians didn't split from the Roman Catholic church until 1054, by which time Christmas had moved to 6 January, so again some Eastern Orthodox churches stuck with the Julian calendar which is why Christmas Day in Russia is 7 January.
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 as to why Armenians do not celebrate Christmas on December 25th with the rest of the world. However, historically, all Christian churches celebrated Christ's birth on January 6th until the fourth century.
In some parts of the world, 6 January is sometimes referred to as 'Old Christmas' or 'Little Christmas', recalling the old date that the Armenian Christians still observe.