🙏Քրիստոս Ծնավ և Հայտնեցավ 🙏
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Շնորհավոր Սուրբ Ծնունդը✞Մեզի ձեզի Մեծ Ավետիս
Posted 05 January 2022 - 11:49 AM
🙏Քրիստոս Ծնավ և Հայտնեցավ 🙏
Posted 07 January 2022 - 09:14 AM
X mas eve reminds me of a steady stream of people holding candles and wading their way
This puffed pastry (Gata) is baked with a coin; one lucky person will find it in their gata
CHENNAI: X mas eve reminds me of a steady stream of people holding candles and wading their way through the snow-filled roads after attending their evening mass at church. People bring Christmas fire from churches to their homes, believing it will bless their families and bring success. As a tradition, the candle is kept burning all through the day,” reminisces Ashkhen Khachatryan. This Armenian national is all set to celebrate Christmas today as per their tradition while the rest of the world indulged in its share of merrymaking ten days ago.
A home away from home
Ashkhen is one of the few Armenians living in the city. Over seven years ago, she decided to make Chennai her home, after marrying the love of her life, Kapil Jesudian. But come Christmas, her heart beats for her friends and family back in her motherland.
As an annual ritual, Ashkhen, Kapil and their son Suren visit The Armenian Church in George Town, on Christmas Eve. “On this day, the church also celebrates the ‘Epiphany’ (which means the revelation that Jesus is God’s son). Epiphany is now mainly the time churches remember the visit of the wise men to meet Jesus; but some churches, like the Armenian Apostolic Church, also celebrate the Baptism of Jesus when he started his ministry on Epiphany day,” details the Anna Nagar resident.
But given the sparse population of Armenians in the city, Christmas mass is not a routine at the church. “We virtually listen to the main service performed in Armenia. The mass usually begins with bells ringing, incense burning, the Lord’s prayer being said and religious songs being played. Greetings of “Shnorhavor Amanor ev Surb Tsnund’’ (Happy New Year and Merry Christmas) are exchanged,” she notes.
Of stories and sentiments
In the pre-pandemic days, every Christmas after the mass, Ashkhen and family used to host the Armenians of Chennai at their abode to an elaborate spread with heirloom delicacies. She would single-handedly recreate a taste of home with a menu that comprises rice cooked with dry fruits and raisins; fish, salads, greens, tahnabour, a yogurt soup; gata, a puffed pastry; ghapama (traditional Armenian dish made of pumpkin stuffed with pilaf and cooked in the oven); and wine. All of them neatly arranged on a table with a cover bearing traditional motifs, a special vase and fancy cutlery.
While it’s going to be a muted affair this year, Ashkhen fills our stomach and soul with stories from previous years. “The meal is light and does not include meat. These recipes are passed down through generations. Christmas lunch at home is memorable because siblings from different towns of Armenia meet under one roof for a holiday. We play a special game. Gatas used to be baked with a coin. People say that the one who finds the coin in his piece of gata will be the luckiest during the year. The door is always open for guests and we also visit our family members to exchange gifts,” she shares.
It has been two years since she celebrated Christmas in her hometown. “I went just before the pandemic. The last two years, we’ve been wishing each other through video calls on important occasions. Fortunately, I got some dry fruits like black plums and cherries from home because they are more flavourful and rich in Armenia. Baking soda and some greens are also sourced from there and stocked in our fridge. Food can be a powerful tool in connecting you to your roots,” she says.
Married into a family of Protestants, Ashkhen rejoices that she can celebrate Christmas twice — each in its unique way. “Some rituals are similar but I love the differences. My husband’s family visits the church for an early morning mass, comes home to have a hearty breakfast of stew and appam, distributes sweets, snacks and savouries to neighbours and enjoys biryani (either turkey or mutton) for lunch and bursts crackers in the evening. My father-in-law decks up the house with a pretty Christmas tree, fancy lighting and stars. Back home, instead of baubles and trinkets, we would decorate the tree with candies, handmade fabric dolls and fruits like pomegranate, apples and pears. For me, it’s all about embracing both these cultures and I’ve learnt a lot,” she shares.
Of all the memories, the ritual of her father hiding presents under the pillow has stayed with her since childhood. “As kids, we are told that Dzmer Papik (Winter grandpa, as Santa Claus is called) comes to visit children on December 31, with his granddaughter, Dzyunanushik (Snow Sweetie). Santa visits us on New Year’s Eve and not on Christmas. This fairytale will stay with me forever,” says Ashkhen.
Over the years, despite the dwindling count of the Armenian community that keeps migrating in and out of the city, families like Ashkhen’s are trying to uphold the legacy of their traditions. “We don’t miss any opportunity to get together with fellow members at the church. We usually gather on memorial days, Christmas Eve and Armenian Genocide Day. I also visit my friends whenever time permits. My son, the next generation, observes the customs we follow and actively takes part in all celebrations. He’s interested in learning about our culture. That’s promising for now,” says a hopeful Ashkhen.
Here’s looking forward to seeing more Armenians in the city bringing in their share of diversity and history for posterity.
Posted 07 January 2022 - 09:16 AM
Armenians celebrate Christmas on 6 January – and this year we will make a virtue of necessity.
I approached Christmas Day, as I imagine many New Statesman readers did, with my eyes smarting from a swab up my nose, and an imaginary two-metre force field around my 89-year-old Nana. It was a jollier, better-attended celebration than the inaugural St Scrooge’s Day of 2020, but the build-up was laden with doom. Not only did the memory of the previous year’s 11th-hour lockdown weigh heavy, but warnings of a Brexit/Covid mix of supply-chain bottlenecks, rising prices and food shortages “cancelling Christmas” haunted the headlines.
As a rush on petrol caused chaos, Boris Johnson promised the nation we would “get through to Christmas and beyond”. It was a myopic approach to planning. Emergency visas for foreign lorry drivers and poultry workers (“truckers and pluckers”) – vital for keeping shelves stocked and solving the poultry shortage that closed around 50 Nando’s branches in the summer – were supposed to expire on Christmas Eve. (Eventually, they were extended until 28 February and New Year’s Eve respectively.)
Urging the public to book their boosters to “save Christmas”, the Prime Minister appeared to be fixated on staggering on until the big day – and not much further.
For the first time, I found myself looking forward to Armenian Christmas more than “English” Christmas. Armenians celebrate Christmas on 6 January. Until the fourth century, so did all Christians. When the Roman empire adopted Christianity, the date was changed to replace a pagan feast day on 25 December known as “Saturnalia”, which marked “the birth of the sun” – the days growing longer. Armenia, the first country to adopt Christianity as its national religion (in AD 301), already had an established church calendar, so stuck to the original day.
All this really means for my family is more hoovering, as our Christmas tree stays up longer than everyone else’s (alas – my sister and I never managed to wangle two sets of presents).
Although as a baby I was fully baptised as Armenian Orthodox (and they really dunk you in; home videos show my English relatives looking politely concerned amid the incense and chanting of St Sarkis church as I’m immersed, wailing, in holy water), our celebration of Armenian Christmas was always an improvised hotchpotch of tradition.
We’d pull leftover crackers, eat home-made Lebanese mezze, barbecue lamb and chicken kebabs – my dad brandishing tongs in the snow – and for pudding share galette des rois, a pastry cake served mainly in France for the Epiphany.
Even the language we use for the Armenian Christmas table is uniquely ours. Lamb kofte (spiced minced meat on a skewer) is “Armenian hamburger”, khobez (classic Lebanese flatbread) is “Arabic bread”. I describe lahmajun (a thin dough base topped with mincemeat, herbs and tomatoes) as “Armenian pizza”, and nickname loubia b’zeit (green bean and tomato stew) “bean surprise”. My dad’s signature aubergine dish is “the priest who fainted” (more commonly known by its Ottoman name imam bayildi, it is so delicious it supposedly made the imam/priest – delete according to heritage – who first tasted it swoon).
On 6 January 2019, the first Armenian Christmas after my dad died, we scrambled to establish a new tradition: I would now host the meal at my flat in east London. I lack winter barbecuing skills but I’ve taught myself some dishes over the years. Our smoke alarm regularly sends my boyfriend racing into the kitchen to find me charring four aubergines on the open flames of our gas hob, feeling connected to my roots but apprehensive about how net zero will affect the depth of flavour in my moutabal (smoky aubergine dip).
We had to skip this nascent tradition in 2021 during the January lockdown, so I’ve been tentatively planning a feast to make up for it this year, which includes both staples and innovations. Vegetarian and vegan guests mean no meat kebabs, and a huge pot of “bean surprise” becoming the focal dish. Tahini for hummus and pomegranate molasses for muhammara (a walnut and red pepper dip) will double up as ingredients for dairy-free brownies. As a stereotypical millennial observing Dry January, I’ll be toasting with Middle Eastern mint lemonade instead of the customary arak (a fiendishly strong aniseed spirit). Armenian coffee remains Armenian coffee: strong, thick and, once drunk, tipped upside-down to read fortunes in the grounds.
An estimated 700,000 Brits isolated over Christmas in 2021, resulting in new festive routines (I know a house-share of 30-somethings who made Mexican food together for “fajismas”). British Muslims have had to adapt to celebrating Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha under restrictions, unable to break their fast with friends and family. Open-air prayer services established during lockdown continue in some local parks.
The “rule of six” in 2020 arrived days ahead of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), and some families attended an outdoor synagogue service, isolated in their cars, honking horns instead of the traditional blowing of the shofar(ram’s horn). Diwali fell in the second lockdown of November 2020, leaving Hindus, Sikhs and Jains to celebrate virtually – even turning to TikTok to watch and share Bhangra dances. Some parents, still fearful after restrictions were lifted, sent parcels of homemade Indian sweets instead of hosting their children the following year.
Customs change as we move away from home, lose those we love, or, nowadays, bump up against public health restrictions. Yet the old impulse to make a virtue of necessity thrives across Britain’s patchwork of communities. It is this spirit, every year, that saves Christmas, Eid, and maybe even Saturnalia, somewhere, too.
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Posted 07 January 2022 - 09:28 AM
Also, President Sisi wished Egyptian Copts abroad a merry Christmas, on Thursday, MENA said.
In a cable of greetings posted by all Egyptian embassies on social media platforms, President also wished that Egypt would realize more progress and prosperity.
On Wednesday evening, the bells of the Kasr El Dobara Evangelical Church in Egypt have ringed amid tightened preventive coronavirus measures in preparation for celebrating Christmas.
Head of the Evangelical Church Andrea Zaki said the church is celebrating Christmas in the presence of worshippers for the first time during the pandemic.
Zaki told the media that the church accommodates 2,000 people, including 400 Muslims.
The security forces have intensified measures nationwide ahead of Christmas celebrations.
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Posted 07 January 2022 - 09:28 AM
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has congratulated the Armenians on Christmas.
“I wish a Happy Feast of the Glorious Nativity and Epiphany of Christ to our Armenian compatriots and the friendly Armenian people,” Gharibashvili said in a message.
“This centuries-old history, grounded in brotherhood and mutual respect, is defined by the good-neighborly and friendly relations between our nations that, I am convinced, will carry on into the future,” the Prime Minister noted.
He wished peace, health, joy, and success to all.
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