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Calcutta: Armenian Christmas 2006

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The Statesman (India) January 6, 2006 Friday

ARMENIAN CHRISTMAS

Mathures Paul Merry Christmas! What, you must be muttering, then was that New Years party a dream? Not at all. Not much spoken of, the Armenian community will celebrate their version of the festival on 6 January. Its a traditional affair that brings community members together and with a new priest in the fold, this years ceremony will be more fun-filled than in 2005.

Celebrations began on 5 January with Jerakalouyts (Eve of the Nativity and Theophany of Christ). A service was held at the Holy Church of Nazareth in Armenian Street. The Christmas ceremony begins with a party attended by community members, conducted at the Armenian Sports Club in Mayo Road. But this year there will be a change. Instead of the Club, we are celebrating it in the Armenian College. The day starts with Divine Liturgy at the Armenian Church at 9:30 a.m. and then the Blessing of the Holy Water. After the Church service, everyone exchanges greetings. At around 3:30 p.m., a tea party is organised and members meet at the Club (this year the School), where Santa Claus distributes gifts to children, says Victoria Stephen, a community member.

Unlike in 2005, this years ceremony will be conducted by the Very Rev. Fr Oshagan Gulgulian. But why 6 January instead of 25 December? He says, Armenian Christmas, as it is popularly called, is a conclusion of celebrations of events related to Christs manifestation. Theophany or Epiphany means revelation of God, which is the central theme of the festival Historically, all Christian churches celebrated Christs birthday on 6 January until the fourth century. According to Roman Catholic sources, the date was changed from 6 January to 25 December to override a pagan feast that was celebrated on 25 December A special spread is laid out on Christmas day. Continues Victoria, We have a special lunch at home that normally features red pulao, chicken curry and so on. To the list Fr Gulgulian adds fish, rice pilaf with raisins and wine. We are thinking of getting chefs from Armenia and Iran, for we dont want to disconnect students from their culture. There is also dolma and roast turkey or chicken. But overall, the meal has acquired more Indian overtones. As Henrik Terchoonian, another community member points out, Back home, Armenian families prepare special meals. Here we do have certain special preparations but some of them have become more Indianised. Church services continue with All Souls Memorial Day (Ore Merelots) on 7 January, with a requiem service at St. Gregorys Chapel in Park Circus. On 15 January there is the annual pilgrimage to Chinsurah. The new priest has quite a few plans. We need to revitalise the community. Sadly, its a shrinking community but we hope to change that. The Indian government and ours are taking steps to better relationships. At present we have 1,000 Indian students in Armenia, most of them studying medicine. For the 185th anniversary celebrations of the Armenian College and the 100th anniversary of St Gregorys Chapel in Park Circus, various programmes have been lined up this year, some of which will be held in April and the rest in November. As for rugby, the college is trying to put more emphasis on education for the present. And Emil Vartazarian along with Henrick are doing their bit to train young players.


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