Christmas celebration in Armenia
Considering spending your winter holidays in Armenia? It’s a festive time full of local customs and good cheer with both similarities and differences to the traditions you know and love. Here we’ll tell you a few of the things to expect and explore!
Unlike many countries around the world, Armenians put up their trees, purchase gifts for their loved ones and anticipate the visit of Santa Claus on January 1, not December 25! The commercial gift-giving holiday in Armenia is distinctly different from Christmas, which is celebrated on January 6 (until the fourth century, all Christian churches celebrated Christ’s birth on this day). Further on in this post, we’ll share how that is commemorated.
Like other children around the world, Armenian kids eagerly await the holiday season and the gifts under the tree. In Yerevan, Gyumri, Vanadzor and Armenia’s bigger towns, Christmas trees adorn the main squares and festive lights, the thoroughfares. In the last decade, Christmas markets for the whole family – replete with artisan gifts, food and drink – have popped up in Yerevan and Gyumri.
In the days leading up to New Year’s Eve, the women of the house begin to prepare delicious treats. Although some families get creative, most lay their tables with roast pork, meat crepes and kufta. These traditional mains are usually accompanied by salads, cured meats like “basturma,” a large bowl of mixed nuts and dried fruits, and fresh fruits. You’ll always find assorted drinks at the table including sparkling water, sodas and of course – cognac, vodka and wine for the adults.
Families usually stay up until midnight together and ring in the new year, toast drinks and exchange gifts. Then, they start visiting each other – yes, starting at midnight!. People can drop in at any time to exchange gifts and good wishes, so the tables should stay stocked and someone should remain at home to greet the guests. Usually, this customary exchange of greetings takes place between January 1 and 3.
Word to the wise: If you’re invited to take part in the traditional visitations, don’t eat too much at each table – you’ll be expected to try something at every home you visit, so save room!
If you gain some holiday weight, never fear. Armenia offers many amazing adventurous ways to burn calories. Try skiing, snowboarding, tubing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, para-planing and winter hiking! Check all our winter activities here!
Usually, the country stays in the holiday mood through Christmas, a peaceful and beautiful holiday. On the evening of January 5, observing families visit church for a midnight Christmas mass. At the end of the service, each person takes a candle and shares the flame, from one person to the next. Families thus carry the light home with them, a beautiful analogy of the spreading of good news. On January 6, families gather for an intimate celebration of Jesus’s birth over a traditional table of fish and rice pilaf with dried fruits. Other families make “ghapama,” a traditional baked pumpkin stuffed with rice, spices, dried fruits and honey. “Gata,” a delicious sweet bread, usually makes an appearance at the table too.
We’d love to see you here this holiday season! Armenia awaits you.
Published on January 03, 2024