Armenian Christmas Day

Most of the world celebrates Christmas on December 25th, but that’s not the case for Armenian Christmas Day, which is celebrated on January 6th every year. Why is it observed on that date?

It’s because Armenian churches continue to follow the old tradition. Up until the 4th century, Christmas was celebrated on January 6th but was changed to December 25th to overshadow a pagan feast during which the birth of the sun was celebrated.

Because Armenia had no such pagan practices, they didn’t move the holiday but instead continued celebrating it in the way they always had.

The History Of Armenian Christmas Day

Many people are aware that December 25th was celebrated as Saturnalia, a holiday that marked the winter solstice festival and during which people exchanged gifts and enjoyed celebratory food and drinks.

However, what most people don’t realize is that there was another religious holiday observed on this day. That holiday was called “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti,” which translates to the “Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.”

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti was established by various pagan sects and was intended to replace Saturnalia. Pagan emperors attempted to merge these two holidays to fit better into their narrative of a “Divine Emperor,”

a notion they could use to control the population. The first Christian Emperor, Constantine, was initiated into the Sol Invictus cult and believed that it was sacrilegious to his beliefs. This is why he decided to move Christmas Day, which had been observed on January 6th, to December 25th.

Because the Sol Invictus cult did not play a significant role in Armenia, the church in that region did not feel compelled to change the official date of Christmas. And that’s the reason why Armenian Christmas Day is observed on January 6th and has been for over 1,700 years.

Observing Armenian Christmas Day

Armenian Christmas Day is a holiday rich in religious tradition. It’s a day when the faithful bring Christmas fire from their local churches to their homes, believed to bring good luck and ensure the family’s continued success. There are also traditional dishes that many Armenians enjoy cooking, including rice with raisins, Ghapama, and fish.

Another tradition during this holiday is placing a gold coin in a sweet bread called Gata, made with sugar and nuts. It’s said that whoever finds the gold coin will be the luckiest person over the next year. Since this day is also known as Water Blessing Day, a day that commemorates Christ’s baptism, blessed holy water is often shared with families in the community. Of course, there are also special religious services on and around this day as well.

Where is it celebrated?
Armenia (National holiday)
When is it?
This year (2024)
January 6 Saturday
Next year (2025)
January 6 Monday
Last year (2023)
January 6 Friday