Armenia is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. It is rich with history, beautiful valleys, steppes and hills and Eurasian cultures and traditions. It has a lot to offer for those seeking splendid experiences and amazing memories, particularly during the winter and Christmas holidays. The welcoming ambience and the numerous activities of winter, particularly during the period of Christmas and New Year in Armenia provide the travellers and natives with warmth and jollity.
Being one of Europe’s first Christian nations, Christmas has a unique significance for the Armenians. Unlike the rest of the Western World, in Armenia first comes the New Year and then Christmas. The spirit of the festival begins from the early December.As maximum population of Armenia is Catholic in denomination, the preparations for Christmas starts with Advent, a Sunday, four weeks before Christmas. During this period many families adorn their houses with advent wreaths, made of evergreen twigs, ribbons and candles. On each of the four Sundays following up to Christmas, carols are sung, prayers are offered and the candles on the advent wreaths are lit up. During this period, Christmas markets are held in several towns. In Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, the market is held in the Republic Square. Almost every small town and cities in Armenia, for instance, Gyumri, Vanadzor, Hirazdan and many others, have their own Christmas markets,dealing in Christmas decorations, new clothes, accessories and foods like Anooshaboor, Armenian Christmas Pudding, Khozeebood, glazed ham and dried fruits. In every town square and houses throughout Armenia, a Christmas tree, decorated with gold and silver ornaments, embellishments and candles is set up.In Republic Square in Yerevan, a huge decorated Christmas tree is installed.
With the celebration of New Year’s Eve in Armenia, two weeks of holidays commence during which Armenians celebrate Christ’s Nativity, his Baptism and the Epiphany. From December 31 to January 13, Armenians celebrate this period with immense fervour and enthusiasm. Families pay visit to their friends and kinsmen, exchange gifts, and organize drinks and feasts. On the midnight before New Year’s Eve, families gather round the dining table for the countdown and to pray for a propitious upcoming year. After the midnight, the banquet begins, mostly consisting of dishes like roast ham, stuffed cabbage, chesses, cured meats, cakes and drinks. Special sweet breads called tarehats are also baked. Resembling to a Three Kings’ Cake, a bean or coin is concealed in them. Natives believe that the person who finds it will enjoy good fortune.
In Armenian Apostolic Church, Christmas is celebrated on 6thJanuary and on this day, it also commemorates the Baptism and Epiphany of Christ. Christmas Day in Armenia is also known as Water Blessing Day to commemorate Christ’s Baptism. Families in the communities share the Holy Water blessed by the Head Priest. On Christmas Eve Armenians light and adorn their houses and churches with candles and lanterns and colorful lights to illuminate and celebrate the end of dark days and long nights.At midnight the churches are filled with people, singing carols and hymns, celebrating Midnight Mass. On the noon of Christmas Day, people held feasts at their places, with their friends and families.
Some traditional Armenians households also fast in the week before Christmas. The Christmas Eve meal is called Khetum. It includes dishes such as rice, fish, green chard and chick peas and yogurt and wheat soup called Tanabur. Desserts are also made and often it includes dried fruits and nuts, rojik, bastukh and other delicacies. There is also the appearance of “The Winter Grandfather” or Kaghand Papa, a Santa Claus like figure, who gifts the children with presents. In the various households, children arouse up to discover presents and gifts under their pillows. Many households enlist a family friend or neighbor to dress up and distribute gifts to their little ones. On Boxing Day most people go and visit their friends and have a get together. Thus, Armenia has myriad aspects to offer to its visitors, but particularly the period of December and January from New Year to Christmas reveals the country’s historical, natural and spiritual zeal. Merry Christmas 2018 all of you.