Chambersburg Man Celebrates Christmas In Armenia
By IRIS HERSH
Chambersburg Public Opinion http://www.publicopiniononline.com/localnews/ci_19702335 Jan 9 2012 PA
Alfred Mueller, Chambersburg, celebrated the traditional Armenian Christmas this week in Armenia, with his family.
"All Christians celebrated what we now call Christmas on Jan. 6 until the 5th century A.D.," Mueller said.
The early church did not recognize the Nativity of Christ. Instead, it celebrated only Christ's theophany, the revelation that Christ was the Son of God when He was baptized by John in the Jordan, said Mueller, who is a professor and chair of the department of communications studies at Mount St. Mary's University, Emmitsburg, Md.
The Catholic church retains part of this early tradition by celebrating Epiphany, the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus, on Jan. 6.
A big change took place in 451 AD. As part of its definition of Christ as both God and man in the same person, the church declared that Christ's nativity would be celebrated Dec. 25, the first day after the winter solstice, when daylight begins to lengthen. This change reflected the church's theology that Christ was conceived to be "The Light of the World."
Armenians did not accept the church's theological definition of "person," so they continued to celebrate on Jan. 6, although nativity celebrations were added later.
This emphasis explains why Armenians celebrate Christmas without the materialism prevalent in American tradition, Mueller said. Unlike the American Christmas, which emphasizes a visit by Santa Claus, Armenians do not exchange gifts on Armenian Christmas. Instead, the Armenian Santa (Dzmer Pap) visits children on Jan. 1 -- New Year's Day.
In Armenian homes, the faithful celebrate Christmas from 5 p.m. Jan. 5 to 5 p.m. Jan. 6, during which time they eat no meat, as a spiritual preparation for Christ's coming.
The first evening, Armenians attend a Divine Liturgy service at church, after which each family takes home a lighted candle to symbolize the Light of Christ coming into their homes. Their evening meal consists of fish, rice pilaf, greens and wine. Mueller's family's tradition at this meal is to eat two types of fish and put a straw broom under the table while eating the meal. The broom commemorate Jesus' birth in a manger.
"That's a Catholic tradition from eastern Europe," he said.
The following morning, families attend another Divine Liturgy and in early afternoon, they return to church for the Blessing of Water. Some of that blessed water is taken home.
"Christmas dinner for Armenians introduces meat into the Christmas celebration," said Mueller. "In our home, we ate a meal that consisted of beef, pork and chicken shish kebab, salads and wine. But each family's traditional meal differs."