Armenian Christmas Day

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

It’s because Armenian churches continue to operate in the old tradition. Up until the 4th century, Christmas was celebrated on the 6th of January but was changed to the 25th to cancel out 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 kept celebrating it the way they have always celebrated it.

The History Of Armenian Christmas Day

Many people realize that December 25th was celebrated as Saturnalia, a holiday that celebrated the winter solstice festival and during which people exchanged gifts with one another 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 created by various pagan sects and was meant to replace Saturnalia. Pagan emperors tried to merge these two holidays it fit better into their narrative of a “Divine Emperor.”

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

Because the Sol Invictus cult didn’t factor prominently in Armenia, the church in that region didn’t feel the need 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 that’s rich in religious tradition. It’s a day during which the faithful bring Christmas fire from their local churches to their homes. This is believed to be good luck and assurance of the continued success of the family. There are also traditional dishes that many Armenians like to cook including rice with raisins, Ghapama, and fish.

Another tradition that can be found during this holiday is placing a gold coin in a sweet bread that’s called Gata and is made with sugar and nuts. It’s said that whoever finds the gold coin is going to 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 living 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 (2023)
January 6 Friday
Next year (2024)
January 6 Saturday
Last year (2022)
January 6 Thursday