follows the Julian Calendar.
"It's a day of spiritual renewal with the birth of our Lord, Jesus
Christ," said Vatche Hovsepian, archbishop of the Western Diocese of the
Armenian Church. "We hope the new millennium and the new century will
bring new hope and new life to all our congregation, peace to the world
and peace to our homeland."
Hovsepian runs the local headquarters of the Armenian Apostolic Church
in the 3300 block of Glenoaks Boulevard. No church exists on the site
right now but one will be completed within a year or two, he said.
"Especially for us, Christmas is a family gathering day," Hovsepian
The celebration of Armenian Christmas, which commemorates the birth
and baptism of Jesus Christ, begins on Jan. 5 with an evening of church
service, followed by a family dinner, said Hratch Tchilingirian, managing
editor of locally produced Armenian International Magazine.
The service includes the ceremony of Chrorhnek, or Blessing of the
Since it happens only twice a year, the Chrorhnek "is a big event that
people go to," said Tchilingirian, who has a master's degree in theology.
The water is blessed with holy oil and typically taken home in small
vials to be used for things such as illnesses.
As people leave the service, they traditionally greet each other with
the phrase "Christ is born and revealed," which is followed by the
response, "Blessed is the birth and revelation of Christ," Tchilingirian
Christmas Eve, or the Night of Khetum (darkness), is a quiet
celebration that anticipates the great feast that is supposed to end 40
days of partial fasting, a practice that few people continue to follow,
The main course of the traditional Christmas Eve meal is Ishkhanatsoog
or princely fish, because other meat is not served during the fasting
period, he said.
Typical desserts vary. One is anush aboor or sweet soup, a pudding
made with wheat, nuts, raisins and dried fruits.
George Gouloomian, owner of Gefer Farms, Inc. Produce Wholesale in
Burbank, said the Armenian Christmas holiday is one of the busiest times
of the year at his market.
He estimated he sold about 3,000 bags of lavash bread and more than
5,000 smoked or fresh white fish Monday and Tuesday.
"I'm eating nuts. I'm going nuts," he said, munching on a bag of nuts
in between customer requests for assistance Wednesday.
The parsley and cilantro used to make kookoo, a vegetarian dish that
resembles quiche, were going so quickly that Gouloomian limited the
number the herbs to 20 bunches per customer.
"We buy truckloads of these items. Truckloads. I mean it," he said.
Gifts are typically exchanged on New Year's Eve, but many Armenians
also do so in December, Tchilingirian said.
Santa Claus is known as Dzhmer Papik among eastern Armenians and
Kaghand Papik among western Armenians.
Christmas Day is followed by "Hratch," a memorial day for the dead on