The Armenian Cathedral in Lviv is among the most beautiful in Lviv. And since it’s Christmas, the question arises: How do Armenians actually celebrate Christmas? The Armenian Church traditions itself is old, because the Armenian Church is one of the oldest churches in the world. It is supposed to have adopted Christianity directly from Apostles. Like other ancient churches of the Eastern rite such as Syrian, Coptic, Ethiopian and the Indian Malabar Church, Armenian Church is loyal to old traditions. But what are they? We at Lviv Buddy were wondering exactly that and asked Father Tadeos, the priest of the Lviv Armenian Cathedral about Armenian Christmas.
Father Tadeos, could you tell us about Armenian Christmas traditions and specialities of Armenian Christmas?
It seems to me the most important thing is that we celebrate Christmas in a different way than Latin or Orthodox Church do. They celebrate it according to the Roman tradition. Many people believe that celebrating Christmas on 7th of January according to Julian calendar doesn’t mean celebrating according to Roman tradition, but it is still Roman tradition. Both celebrating on 24/25th December or 6/7th January is still the Roman tradition. It’s actually the same day, just a date is different depending on different calendars. In the past Christmas was celebrated by the World Church at the same day as Epiphany. That used to be on 19th of January. The Armenian Church is still loyal to this tradition. However, later the celebration was moved to 6th December because pagans had their festivities in honor of Jupiter at that time. In order to eliminate pagan traditions, the date of celebrating Christmas was changed. Later, the Catholic Church moved Christmas to December 24th with the adoption of the Gregorian calendar. Orthodox continued celebrating on the 6th of January. Now Armenian Church celebrates according to new Gregorian calendar, so Christmas and Epiphany are celebrated not on January19th but on the 6th. The date is the same as with the Orthodox Church but the day is different. The Ukrainian Church celebrates Christmas while Armenians celebrate Christmas and Epiphany. That’s why we are blessing water on Xmas.
What are traditions that you follow around Christmas?
Certainly, there is Lent before Christmas. Before the Soviet Union, Armenians celebrated Christmas, not New Year. Celebrating New Year is a new tradition. So if you are celebrating New Year, you have to remember about Lent. Like Ukrainians, in Armenia people also prepare lean dishes. They have similar dishes to Ukrainian kutia. Armenian traditions are similar to other Christian traditions. At the same time there are special features since Ukrainians adopted traditions later from Greeks while Armenians adopted it directly from the Apostles, but, in general, it is very close because there is the same religion and the same or close traditions.
What about St. Nicholas Day? Does the Armenian Church celebrate it?
Of course. But it’s moveable. Sometimes it’s in the beginning of December or in the end of November. Depending on the date of Easter the holidays of Saints change as well.
Are there some traditions connected with giving presents to children on St. Nicholas Day?
Yes, we give presents to children but not on Christmas. We give presents during Candlemas (The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple). It looks a bit different than Christmas present giving. Children go from house to house and knock the doors. When you open the door you have to put something into their bag. Actually, Armenian traditions vary from region to region because Armenia was divided by foreign countries. Firstly, Romans with Persians, later came Turks… Moreover, during the Soviet rule a lot of Armenians forgot about traditions, religion and church. A lot of things were forgotten.
Thank you very much Father Tadeos, for telling us about Armenian Church traditions and even about other Churches of Eastern rite!
If you want to see the Armenian Church, Armenian district and have some insight into the life of Armenians in Lviv, join our tours and we will explore multicultural Lviv together!