Why Lebanon and Armenia Celebrate Christmas in January

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Armenian Christmas

In the United States, most people celebrate Christmas on December 25th. It may come as a shock to many, therefore, that the day we often think of as the day Jesus was born is not the same in different regions of the world. To get to the bottom of this inconsistency, we at Terrace Restaurant and Lounge did a bit of research to learn how religious customs differ from country to country, and why Americans, Lebanese, and Armenians all celebrate Christmas on different days.

Why Is Christmas Celebrated on Different Days?

Because little is known about the early life of Jesus Christ, the early Christian Church simply had to guess at the exact date of his birth. In the earliest Middle Eastern traditions – Westerners will remember that Jesus Christ was of Middle Eastern decent, and that his birthplace, Bethlehem, was actually in modern-day Palestine – the birth and baptism of Jesus Christ was observed on January 6. After the Roman Empire adopted Christianity in the 3rd Century, the date was moved to December 25th to coincide with a large pagan festival.

Another reason for the discrepancy is that the majority of traditional Orthodox Churches still use the Julian calendar, which was created by the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar in 45 B.C. According to this calendar, Christmas day takes place on January 7th, while the newer Gregorian calendar, which was adopted by most Western Churches in 1582 and is now used by historians, holds that Christmas should be observed on December 25th. The difference between the two calendars is 13 days, meaning that, strictly speaking, the Gregorian Christmas (December 25th) and the Julian Christmas (January 7th) is actually the same day.

How Do People Celebrate Christmas Differently?

Aside from observing different dates for the birth of Jesus Christ, Western, Eastern Orthodox, and Armenian Churches all celebrate Christmas a bit differently.

In Western traditions, families often go to a special church service at midnight on Christmas Day, and a Christmas dinner of ham or turkey is typically served on either Christmas Eve (December 24th) or Christmas Day. Christmas is also a highly commercialized holiday, especially in Western Europe and the United States, and people exchange gifts to re-enact the giving of gifts to the baby Jesus.

In countries like Belarus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Russia, and the Ukraine, where the majority of citizens attend Eastern Orthodox services, people spend the days leading up to Christmas (January 7th) praying, fasting, and reflecting on the past year. On Christmas day, Christians are rewarded for their piety with a feast of lenten bread, mushroom soup, slow-cooked kidney beans with potatoes, garlic and seasoning, bobal’ki (small biscuits combined with sauerkraut or poppy seed with honey), and baked cod.

In Armenia, much like in Eastern Orthodox traditions, people typically fast for seven days leading up to Christmas Day (observed on January 6th), and Christmas is celebrated by attending a Divine Liturgy where the faithful hold lamps during the service. Like in other traditions, a feast is shared with friends and family to celebrate the birth and baptism of Jesus Christ.

Come Celebrate Armenian Christmas With Terrace!

To celebrate Armenian Christmas, Terrace Restaurant would like to extend an invitation to everyone, Christians and nonbelievers alike, to join us on January 6th for an evening of great food and fellowship you won’t soon forget! We expect a wonderful turnout for this momentous evening, so be sure to reserve your table as soon as possible!