Your Guide to Christmas in Armenia

Armenia is a land rich in culture and traditions, and Christmas is a time when the country comes alive with festivities and celebrations. From the vibrant Yerevan winter decorations to the January 6th celebrations, there is much to explore during the holiday season in Armenia.

Christmas in Armenia

In this comprehensive guide, we invite you to discover the magic of Christmas in Armenia and the unique traditions that make it a one-of-a-kind experience compared with other European Christmas traditions.

Key Takeaways

  • Armenian Christmas celebrations have a rich cultural heritage and unique customs and rituals.
  • Yerevan is the hub of winter festivities in Armenia, featuring enchanting decorations and vibrant holiday markets.
  • January 6th is an important day in Armenian Christmas celebrations, with religious ceremonies and special services held at the Apostolic Church.
  • The Armenian community comes together during Christmas to support charitable initiatives and events.
  • Armenia has ancient traditions associated with the winter solstice and home blessings during the holiday season.

When is Christmas in Armenia?

Unlike the Western world, where Christmas is celebrated on December 25th, Armenians prepare for and celebrate the birth of Christ on January 6th, adhering to the ancient Julian calendar. This difference sets the stage for a distinctive festive period, where the anticipation builds well beyond December.

These dates represent key moments during the festive period in Armenia, encompassing both national and religious celebrations.

December 31New Year’s Eve
January 1New Year’s Day
January 5Armenian Christmas Eve
January 6Armenian Christmas Day
January 13Old New Year
January 28Armenian Army Day

The season is marked by a series of spiritual and communal events, including the charming and age-old practice of home blessings by priests, which bring communities and families together in a shared expression of faith and hope.

The specialness of Christmas in Armenia is further amplified by the picturesque winter landscapes that serve as a backdrop to the festivities. Towns and villages come alive with vibrant decorations and lights, creating a magical atmosphere that extends from the capital city of Yerevan to the smallest rural community.

Armenian Christmas is not just a day, but a culmination of events that honor traditions, such as the lighting of bonfires on the eve of the feast to symbolize the light of Christ, and the enjoyment of festive foods like khetum, a meal that typically includes fish, rice, and green salad.

The joyous sounds of Armenian carols, or “sharagans,” resonate through the crisp winter air, while the generosity of the Armenian people shines through in acts of charity and the sharing of blessings with loved ones and strangers alike, truly embodying the spirit of Christmas.

Armenian Christmas Traditions

The historical tapestry of Christmas in Armenia is interwoven with the country’s early Christian roots, dating back to the 4th century when Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity as its state religion.

The Armenian Church, following the Julian calendar, traditionally observes Christmas on January 6th, a date that once united both the birth and baptism of Jesus Christ before the Western Church split the commemorations. This ancient tradition persists in Armenia, allowing the country to celebrate Christmas with distinctive solemnity and joy.

Over the centuries, this celebration has evolved, integrating pre-Christian winter solstice customs, such as the lighting of fires to symbolize the victory of light over darkness, with Christian beliefs. Today’s festivities, with their unique blend of sacred rituals, communal feasting, and charity, reflect a deep historical legacy that continues to shape and define the spiritual and cultural identity of the Armenian people.

Home Blessing Tradition

One of the most important traditions is the lighting of the Christmas candle or “Aghtz” in Armenian. The candle symbolizes the light of Christ and is lit on the evening of January 5th, marking the eve of Christmas Day. Families gather around the candle and recite prayers for peace, health, and prosperity.

Christmas Eve Supper

Christmas Eve supper is an integral part of Armenian Christmas traditions. Families gather to enjoy a festive meal consisting of fish, rice pilaf, and various salads. The meal is accompanied by traditional Armenian bread known as “lavash.”

One notable dish served during the Christmas Eve supper is “Jengyalov Hats,” a flatbread filled with a variety of fresh herbs. This dish is popular among Armenians and is a delicious addition to the festive meal.

A pivotal ritual in Armenian Christmas is the water blessing ceremony. This ritual, which commemorates Christ’s baptism, sees clergymen blessing water with a cross, believed to bestow the water with healing properties. The faithful often take this holy water home, a tangible connection to their faith and the divine.

After the Blessing of Water, families take some of the blessed water home with them, believing it to have healing properties. The water is used throughout the year for baptisms, blessings, and other religious ceremonies.

“Armenian Christmas traditions are unique and deeply rooted in the country’s cultural heritage. From the Christmas candle to the Blessing of Water, each tradition has a special meaning and significance for the Armenian people.”

Yerevan Winter Festivities

During the Christmas season, Yerevan undergoes a captivating transformation, becoming a picturesque tableau reminiscent of a winter wonderland. The cityscape is bedecked with an array of festive ornaments, while melodic harmonies imbue the crisp air with a sense of celebration. The ambiance is electric with anticipation, as Armenians, both young and old, come together to revel in the cherished customs of their heritage, welcoming both locals and tourists to partake in the merriment.

Republic Square, the pulsating heart of Yerevan’s Yuletide celebrations, metamorphoses into an enchanting realm of holiday splendor. Here, the ornate tapestry of vibrant lights weaves a visual symphony, with a majestic Christmas tree rising as the crowning jewel amid the festivities.

This grand arboreal display serves as a beacon of the season’s joy, drawing people from all walks of life to gather and share in the warmth of communal spirit and good tidings.

Yerevan winter festivities

In addition to the stunning decorations, Yerevan boasts an array of holiday markets selling handcrafted gifts, traditional Armenian food, and local beverages. These markets provide an excellent opportunity to sample local delicacies and purchase unique souvenirs for loved ones back home.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Yerevan during the New Year holiday, you’ll witness yet another spectacular celebration. On New Year’s Eve, locals gather in Republic Square to watch the annual countdown and fireworks display, marking the start of a new year with joy and enthusiasm.

Taste of Yerevan

HarissaA traditional Armenian porridge made with chicken or lamb, wheat, and butter
KhorovatsArmenian barbecue made of skewered and grilled meat
BasturmaCured beef seasoned with garlic, cumin, paprika, and other spices
BaklavaA sweet pastry made with layers of phyllo dough and honey or syrup

Armenian cuisine plays a significant role in Yerevan’s winter festivities, with a variety of delicious dishes and treats to savor. Don’t miss out on traditional dishes such as harissa, khorovats, and basturma, as well as sweet treats like baklava and gata.

“Yerevan during the Christmas season is a truly magical experience, overflowing with joy, excitement, and unique cultural traditions. You’ll fall in love with the warmth and hospitality of the Armenian people, who welcome visitors with open arms and make them feel like family.” – Anonymous

January 6th Celebrations

On January 6th, Armenia revels in a profound spiritual atmosphere that blends the sacred and the communal, marking Christmas Day and the Epiphany. For a visitor, stepping into Armenia during this time is like entering a live canvas of ancient Christian traditions, where the air buzzes with a sense of reverence and celebration.

The day starts with the pealing of church bells that echo across the cities and countryside, inviting everyone to witness the divine liturgy. The streets, albeit cold, brim with anticipation as families, dressed in their finest, head towards the nearest Armenian Apostolic Church.

The interior of the churches on this day is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Incense clouds hover above the congregation as chants and prayers in the unique Armenian liturgical language fill the sacred space. A visitor would be engulfed in a sensory experience of spirituality; the rich tapestry of sounds, sights, and scents is both foreign and inviting.

The highlight for many is the Blessing of Water ceremony, where water is sanctified to symbolize Christ’s baptism. Observers often take this holy water home, believing it to carry the power to heal and bless.

Beyond the church walls, the festivities are just as rich. After the religious ceremonies conclude, the focus shifts to feasting and family. Visitors can expect to be welcomed into homes or public gatherings with tables laden with traditional Armenian foods.

Dishes like khash, a winter soup meant to warm and bring people together, and anoushabour, a sweet pudding, are shared. It’s a gesture of Armenian hospitality, extending the joy of Christmas to everyone, local or foreign.

What’s special about this day is the blend of solemnity and warmth. While the morning is dedicated to sacred observances, the evening gives way to festivities that light up the winter night. The Christmas spirit lingers well into the night with songs, dances, and the exchange of gifts.

It’s a day when the Armenian heritage of faith, family, and festivity comes alive, and a visitor would be left with a rich tapestry of memories and a deep appreciation for this unique corner of the world’s celebration of Christmas.

Gaghant Baba Visits

Get ready to welcome Gaghant Baba, the beloved Armenian version of Santa Claus, during the holiday season. According to Armenian folklore, Gaghant Baba arrives on New Year’s Eve to bring gifts to children who have been good throughout the year.

Similar to Santa Claus, Gaghant Baba is depicted as a jolly, elderly man with a long white beard and a red suit. However, instead of traveling in a sleigh with reindeer, he arrives on a white horse or donkey, carrying a sack of gifts.

Gaghant Baba visits

To prepare for Gaghant Baba’s visit, Armenian children leave their shoes or stockings outside their door on New Year’s Eve, filled with hay or straw for the horse. In return, Gaghant Baba leaves small presents, such as candies, nuts, or small toys, as a reward for their good behavior.

Experience the joy and excitement that Gaghant Baba brings during Christmas in Armenia, as children eagerly await his arrival to bring gifts and happiness into their homes.

Apostolic Church Celebrations

The Armenian Apostolic Church plays a central role in Christmas celebrations in Armenia. On Januray 6th, people attend special church services and liturgies held at the Apostolic Church, where they offer prayers and pay homage to the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Armenian Apostolic Church also holds a unique water blessing ceremony on January 6th. During this ceremony, water is blessed by the priest and distributed to the congregation, who take it home to use as holy water throughout the year.

The Blessing of Water

The Blessing of Water is an important ritual that takes place in the Armenian Apostolic Church during the Christmas season. The ceremony involves the priest blessing the water by reciting prayers and performing various rituals. The holy water is then distributed to the congregation, who take it home and use it for various purposes, such as healing, protection, and purification. The Blessing of Water is believed to have great spiritual significance and is an important part of the Armenian Christmas tradition.

WaterCleansing and purification
OilAnointing and healing
WheatProsperity and abundance

In addition to the water blessing ceremony, the Armenian Apostolic Church also celebrates the appearance of Dzmer Pap, or Winter Father. Dzmer Pap is similar to Santa Claus and is believed to bring gifts to children on January 6th, the day of Christmas according to the Armenian Church. Children eagerly await his arrival and leave their shoes outside their homes, hoping to receive a special present.

Armenian Gift-Giving Practices

Gift-giving is an important aspect of Christmas in Armenia, representing love, appreciation, and respect for family and friends. Armenian gift-giving practices hold unique cultural significance, reflecting the country’s rich heritage and traditions.

Symbolic Gifts

Armenians often exchange symbolic gifts during Christmas, such as pomegranates, which are believed to represent fertility, abundance, and good fortune. The fruit’s deep red color, reminiscent of the blood of Christ, also holds religious significance. Other symbolic gifts include dried fruits and nuts, which represent the fruits of the earth, and honey and sweets, which signify the sweetness of life and love.

Symbolic GiftsMeaning
PomegranatesFertility, abundance, good fortune, religious significance
Dried fruits and nutsFruits of the earth
Honey and sweetsSweetness of life and love

Armenia is also known for its intricate and beautifully crafted khachkars, cross-stones that are often given as gifts. Khachkars have been a part of Armenian culture for centuries and represent the country’s Christian heritage.

Gift Exchange

Armenian gift-giving practices usually involve exchanging presents among family and friends on Christmas Day. Gifts are often wrapped in colorful paper and presented to loved ones with a heartfelt message. The act of giving and receiving gifts brings joy and strengthens bonds between family and friends.

Pomegranate Blessings Ritual

The pomegranate blessing ritual embodies the fusion of Armenia’s agricultural heritage with its spiritual traditions. The fruit, with its rich red color and multitude of seeds, symbolizes life, fertility, and prosperity. Breaking a pomegranate on the doorstep of a home on Christmas is thought to bring blessings for the New Year, a custom that vividly illustrates the blend of the country’s past with its present.

Charitable Giving

Beyond exchanging gifts among family and friends, Armenians also practice charitable giving during the holiday season. Many organizations and individuals volunteer their time and resources to help those in need, reflecting the spirit of generosity and compassion that characterizes Christmas in Armenia.

Armenian Gift-Giving Practices

Armenian gift-giving practices are a testament to the country’s rich cultural heritage and traditions. Whether it’s exchanging symbolic gifts among loved ones or practicing charitable giving, Christmas in Armenia brings people together in a spirit of love, generosity, and kindness.

Christmas Charity Events

During the Christmas season in Armenia, the community comes together to support those in need through various charitable initiatives and events.

One of the most significant events is the annual Christmas Charity Bazaar, organized by the Armenian International Women’s Association. The bazaar features handmade crafts, traditional Armenian food, and entertainment, with all proceeds going towards charitable organizations supporting orphanages, schools, and hospitals in Armenia.

Charitable OrganizationFocus Area
Fund for Armenian ReliefHealthcare, Education, Social Services
Birthright ArmeniaYouth Development, Cultural Exchange
Fly a HopePediatric Healthcare, Humanitarian Aid

In addition to the bazaar, there are also various fundraising events and donation drives organized by different community groups and associations. These events range from toy drives for underprivileged children to food drives to support families in need.

Participating in these charity events is a meaningful way to give back to the Armenian community and spread holiday cheer to those less fortunate.

Winter Solstice Events

Winter solstice is a significant time in Armenian culture, marking the longest night of the year and the return of longer days. Celebrations and rituals take place to welcome the warmth of the sun and bring blessings to households.

On this day, water is considered particularly auspicious and is believed to have healing properties. Many Armenians participate in the water blessing ceremony, where water is blessed by the priest at the Apostolic Church and taken home to use for healing and purification rituals.

Another tradition is the lighting of bonfires, which symbolize the rebirth of the sun and provide warmth and light during the long winter night. Families and communities gather around the bonfires, singing songs and performing dances, creating a joyous and festive atmosphere.

Winter Solstice Table

Water Blessing CeremonyThe blessing of water takes place at the Armenian Apostolic Church during the winter solstice, where water is believed to receive divine energy and healing properties.
Lighting of BonfiresThe lighting of bonfires symbolizes the return of the sun and provides warmth and light during the long winter night.
Feasting on Armenian CuisineFeasting on traditional Armenian dishes during the winter solstice is a way of celebrating and coming together as a community.

Overall, the winter solstice is an important time in Armenian culture, as it marks the beginning of longer and brighter days, and provides an opportunity to celebrate community and traditions.

Home Blessing Tradition

During the Christmas season in Armenia, it is customary to perform a home blessing ritual to bring prosperity and protection to households. The blessing is usually conducted by a priest who sprinkles holy water throughout the home while reciting prayers and making sign of the cross.

Armenian Home Blessing

The home blessing tradition is an ancient practice that dates back to the early days of Christianity in Armenia. It is believed to have originated from the pre-Christian tradition of purifying homes during the winter solstice, which was associated with the renewal of life and fertility.

The home blessing ritual typically takes place on January 6th however, it can also be performed on other days during the Christmas season. It is customary to invite family and friends to participate in the blessing, creating a sense of community and togetherness during the holiday season.

During the blessing ceremony, the priest visits each room of the home, starting from the entrance and moving clockwise. In each room, the priest sprinkles holy water and recites prayers, asking for blessings and protection for the inhabitants of the home. The ceremony usually concludes with a final blessing at the entrance of the home.

The Significance of the Home Blessing Tradition

The home blessing tradition holds great significance in Armenian culture and is seen as a way to renew and strengthen family ties. It is believed that the blessings offer protection against evil spirits and bring prosperity to the home. The ceremony also serves as a reminder of the importance of faith and spirituality in daily life.

The home blessing ritual is an expression of gratitude for all the blessings one has received and a way to invite more blessings into one’s life. It is a time to reflect on the past year and set intentions for the coming year, creating a positive and hopeful outlook for the future.

Holiday Markets in Armenia

One of the best ways to experience the festive atmosphere of Christmas in Armenia is by visiting the holiday markets that spring up throughout the country during the season. These markets offer a wide variety of unique gifts, handmade crafts, and delicious Armenian holiday cuisine that reflect the culture and traditions of the Armenian people.

In Yerevan, the capital city, the Christmas Market in the Republic Square is a must-see attraction. The market features over 100 vendors selling handmade crafts, jewelry, and traditional Armenian sweets and pastries. You can also find unique gifts such as Armenian ceramics, wood carvings, and handwoven textiles.

If you’re looking for a more traditional holiday market experience, consider visiting the city of Gyumri. The Shirak Regional Christmas Market is one of the oldest and most popular holiday markets in Armenia, offering a diverse range of local handicrafts and food. Other cities like Dilijan and Jermuk also feature holiday markets that showcase local flavors and traditions.

Anoushavan Day Festivities

Anoushavan Day, or Tiarn’ndaraj, holds a special place in the heart of Armenian cultural traditions, celebrated typically on February 13th or 14th. This holiday marks the presentation of Jesus to the temple and concludes the Armenian Christmas season.

It is affectionately known as the “Day of Sweetness,” a name that captures the essence of the festivities and the traditional serving of anoushabour, a sweet wheat pudding symbolic of fertility and good fortune. As the Feast of the Coming of the Light, Anoushavan Day is a vibrant celebration of the light of Christ, manifested through various unique customs and joyful gatherings.

Central to the Anoushavan Day festivities is the custom of lighting bonfires, a profound expression of Christ’s light. Armenians, both young and old, engage in the tradition of leaping over these fires, a practice believed to purify and fortify them for the year ahead.

This act of jumping over flames is accompanied by traditional songs and dances, reinforcing the community’s connection and the festive spirit of the day. As dusk falls, the flickering bonfires become a spectacle of communal joy, with people gathering around to celebrate the enduring warmth of their cultural heritage.

The “Day of Sweetness” extends its warmth into the homes of Armenians, where doors are thrown open to welcome family and friends. The air is filled with the fragrance of anoushabour as it simmers, ready to be shared among loved ones.

The day also includes a special blessing for newlywed couples, imparting wishes of bliss and prosperity. The combination of sacred rituals, the sharing of sweet dishes, and the emphasis on fellowship not only marks the culmination of the Christmas season but also embodies the enduring spirit of Armenian hospitality and kinship.


What are some unique Christmas traditions in Armenia?

Armenian Christmas traditions include celebrating on January 6th, the Anoushavan Day festivities, and the folklore surrounding Gaghant Baba, the Armenian version of Santa Claus.

What can I expect during Yerevan’s winter festivities?

Yerevan’s winter festivities include enchanting decorations, vibrant holiday markets, and a joyful atmosphere that fills the streets. Experience the warmth and hospitality of the Armenian people as they celebrate Christmas and New Year.

Tell me about the January 6th celebrations in Armenia.

January 6th holds special significance in Armenian Christmas celebrations. Religious ceremonies and special services are held at the Apostolic Church to commemorate the birth of Jesus, allowing you to experience the reverence and devotion of the Armenian community during this sacred time.

What are the Anoushavan Day festivities?

Anoushavan Day, also known as the Day of Sweetness, is a joyous celebration in Armenia. It involves feasting on delectable Armenian cuisine and participating in cultural events and performances.

Are there any Christmas charity events in Armenia?

Yes, there are various charitable initiatives and events that take place during Christmas in Armenia. The Armenian community comes together to support those in need, spreading love and kindness during the holiday season.

Who is Gaghant Baba?

Gaghant Baba is the Armenian version of Santa Claus. Children eagerly await his visit on New Year’s Eve, as he brings gifts and joy to households.

What are the Apostolic Church celebrations during Christmas?

The Armenian Apostolic Church holds religious ceremonies and rituals during the Christmas season. Special liturgies, water blessings, and the appearance of Dzmer Pap (Winter Father) are notable events that showcase the spiritual significance of Christmas in the Armenian faith.

How do Armenians practice gift-giving during Christmas?

Gift-giving is an important tradition in Armenia during Christmas. Exchanging presents symbolizes love and appreciation, and certain gifts, such as pomegranates, are believed to bring blessings and good fortune.

What are the winter solstice events in Armenia?

The winter solstice in Armenia is marked by ancient traditions. Water blessing ceremonies and the lighting of bonfires to welcome the return of the sun’s warmth are among the rituals and celebrations that take place on the longest night of the year.

Tell me about the home blessing tradition in Armenia.

The home blessing tradition in Armenia involves prayers and rituals to protect and bring prosperity to households during Christmas. It emphasizes the importance of family unity during the holiday season.

Are there holiday markets in Armenia during Christmas?

Yes, Armenia boasts festive holiday markets where you can find unique gifts, local crafts, and traditional Armenian delicacies. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere as you explore the stalls filled with handmade goods and delight your taste buds with the flavors of Armenian holiday cuisine.